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Obama out to seize momentum from Romney in debate

By Steve Peoples

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16 2012 10:28 a.m. MDT

The Wisconsin congressman arrived for a Lynchburg rally in a pick-up truck with a large American flag flapping behind in the cab as AC/DC's "Rock 'N Roll Train" blared. In an interview with Virginia's conservative radio host John Fredericks, Ryan said supporters working to get out the vote for the GOP ticket "have been just really doing the Lord's work all throughout the state."

Romney political director Rich Beeson laid down a marker that Romney would be victorious in one of his most challenging swing-state contests — Ohio. "To be clear, the Romney-Ryan campaign will be victorious in the Buckeye State," Beeson said in a memo, written with the campaign's Ohio director, Scott Jennings, and arguing that several factors are working in Romney's favor there. No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio, where polls show Obama running strong.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and a top Romney supporter, wouldn't go as far as Beeson to predict a GOP win in Ohio.

"I can draw a scenario where Mitt Romney can win without Ohio, but it's a very, very difficult path," McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press while campaigning in Ohio for Romney. "And so I think the eyes of the world will be on Ohio and, from the polling that I see — and this is obviously a very dynamic situation — we could be up late."

Romney picked up the backing of former independent presidential candidate H. Ross Perot. "We can't afford four more years in which debt mushrooms out of control, our government grows and our military is weakened," Perot wrote in an editorial announcing his endorsement Tuesday in the Des Moines Register.

First lady Michelle Obama told students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that every vote is going to count in the closely fought contest and "to work like you've never worked before."

"I'm going to be honest with you," she said. "This journey is going to be hard. And there will plenty of ups and downs during this next 21 days."

Obama's campaign turned to former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday to make the case against what it says is Romney's $5 trillion tax cut. Clinton appears in a Web video for the campaign, picking apart Romney's tax plan piece by piece, saying his approach "hasn't worked before and it won't work this time."

The president's campaign says Romney hid from his tax proposal during the first debate, and pledged Obama would be more aggressive in calling out his rival's shifts on that and other issues this time around. Clinton, who has been praised by Democrats for explaining Obama's economic arguments more clearly than the president himself, appeared to be laying the groundwork in the video released hours before the second faceoff.

Obama's campaign, seeking to improve some of the optics that reinforced his poor performance, planned to send several elected Democratic officials to the "spin room" to speak with reporters immediately after the debate.

The campaign only had a handful of Obama advisers in the room after the first debate. Because those same advisers also had to meet with the president after the event, they showed up noticeably later than the Republican officials promoting Romney.

Their late arrival reinforced the notion of a campaign struggling to comprehend the president's lackluster performance.

Tuesday's debate audience of uncommitted voters was selected by the Gallup Organization. Moderator Candy Crowley of CNN will choose who gets to speak after reviewing proposed questions to avoid repeats.

The final debate of the campaign will be Oct. 22 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., focusing on foreign policy.

Pickler reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, Bob Lewis in Lynchburg, Va., Nancy Benac in Washington and Julie Pace in Williamsburg, Va., contributed to this report.

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