While they're both focused on the South, NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls released Thursday showed Obama retaining his lead over Romney in Iowa and Wisconsin, two Midwestern battlegrounds. Obama's campaign circulated a memo highlighting the president's strength during the early voting period in Ohio, where Romney has largely staked his hopes of winning the White House.
But both were keeping relatively light public schedules before a weekend devoted to preparing for their third and final presidential debate, set for Monday in Boca Raton, Fla. After the event in Virginia, Obama was heading for the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland to prepare; Romney planned preparations in Delray Beach, Fla.
"The next debate is on foreign policy," Obama told the white-tie audience at Thursday's dinner. "Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden."
Authorizing the raid that killed the terrorist leader was a high point in Obama's term, and polls show voters give him high marks on handling foreign policy. But the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month led Romney and Republicans to raise questions about Obama's policy in the Middle East.
Romney spoke first at the dinner, which was to raise $5 million for Catholic charities. Addressing the elegantly dressed crowd, Romney, a millionaire many times over, said: "It's nice to finally relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house." Of Obama, Romney said: "You have to wonder what he's thinking. So little time, so much to redistribute."
Obama followed, joking that he took a nap during the first debate but also chiding Romney for his wealth.
"Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in Midtown," Obama said. "I understand Gov. Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown."
He looked to his left, where Romney sat, grinning as his opponent laughed.
Hunt reported from New York. Associated Press writer Jim Kuhnhenn in New York contributed to this report.
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