President Obama on sleepless tour while Mitt Romney stays in Ohio
Charles Dharapak, Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — A scratchy-voiced President Barack Obama powered through a marathon drive to get his supporters to vote Thursday and planned to set an example by becoming the first president to cast his own ballot ahead of time. Republican Mitt Romney spent one of the precious 12 days before Election Day entirely focused on the Rust Belt battleground of Ohio.
With a new Associated Press-GfK poll showing Romney has erased Obama's 16-point advantage among women, the president tried to keep a GOP abortion controversy alive. The risers behind him stacked with female supporters, Obama made a veiled reference to Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's comment that "life is a gift from God," and that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen."
"As we saw again this week, I don't think any politician in Washington, most of whom are male, should be making health care decisions for women," Obama said. "Women can make those decisions themselves."
It was the president's first mention of Mourdock's comment at a rally, but Obama said Wednesday night on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" that "rape is rape." His campaign also has been intensifying its criticism of Romney for refusing to pull his support for Mourdock, even though the Republican presidential nominee said he disagrees with Mourdock's comment.
Beyond the statement from an aide, Romney and his aides have tried to avoid the subject. While picking up breakfast at a downtown Cincinnati diner on Thursday, Romney refused to answer repeated questions from reporters standing nearby about Mourdock's comment and whether he would call for Mourdock to take down a TV ad Romney filmed for him earlier this week.
At a rally later at the Jet Machine manufacturing company, Romney spoke repeatedly about the choices facing American families. He said seniors on Medicare would struggle to find doctors if Obama is re-elected, daughters would face crushing college loan debt and parents would lose choices about where to educate their children.
"This election is not about me. It's not about the Republican Party," Romney told a crowd estimated at 3,000. "It's about America. And it's about your family,"
Romney's campaign reached out to women by sending Ann Romney on daytime's "Rachael Ray" show, where she prepared her meatloaf cakes recipe and took cameras along on a trip to Costco to shop in bulk for family gatherings. Mrs. Romney said that, with 30 mouths to feed, her family always eats buffet-style and that "Mitt is often at the front of the line."
Romney was on a daylong swing through three Ohio towns, sharpening his focus on a state critical to his hopes of winning the White House. The Republican's advisers say their internal data has him tied to win the state's 18 Electoral College votes, but public polling has shown Obama with a slim lead.
Obama, in the midst of a four-state blitz on Thursday, also was scheduled to finish his day in Ohio. Shortly after Romney concludes his evening remarks in Defiance, the president was set to appear 150 miles to the east in Cleveland.
Virginia also got attention from both campaigns on an unseasonably warm October day, with Obama drawing a massive crowd estimated at 15,000 to Richmond's Byrd Park while GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan spoke before a smaller group at the opposite end of the state in Appalachian coal country. Ryan told the audience of about 1,500 that winning a close race won't be enough for the GOP ticket.
"The worst thing that could happen is President Obama gets re-elected and we have more of the same with a debt crisis," Ryan said. "The second worst thing that could happen is we get elected by default, without a mandate."
The AP-GfK poll released Thursday shows the presidential race still a virtual dead heat nationally, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent. That result is within the poll's 4.2-point margin of error.
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