NEW YORK — Republican Mitt Romney is trying to shift the focus of the presidential campaign away from anti-American violence overseas and back to the economy, accusing President Barack Obama of ignoring Chinese trade violations and pointing to a new Federal Reserve effort to bolster the economy as evidence of Obama's weak policies.
Obama, campaigning in the aftermath of the death of four Americans at a consulate in Libya, is playing up his role as commander in chief, vowing that "no act of terror will go unpunished."
Following a quick fundraising trip to New York, Romney was headed Friday to Ohio, which has been essential to any Republican seeking the White House. Obama carried the perennial battleground state in 2008, but it remains in the toss-up category and could again play a pivotal role in the election.
Obama returned to Washington late Thursday after a two-day trip to Nevada and Colorado and planned to wrap himself in Olympic glory on Friday, meeting with members of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics teams at the White House. Romney has reminded voters of his work leading the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics out of financial turmoil, while Obama has embraced the all-American images of the Olympics team, cheering on their success during rallies last month.
In a Virginia suburb of Washington, Romney returned to his emphasis on the economy, promising to crack down on China. His campaign released a new television ad claiming that China has outpaced the United States in new manufacturing jobs since Obama took office.
The White House responded, saying that all of the actions the administration has initiated at the World Trade Organization to rein in China have been successful. Obama's campaign said Obama has brought as many cases challenging China trade policies in 3 1/2 years as former President George W. Bush did in eight.
Romney also seized on the Fed's new attempt to jumpstart the economy, saying it showed that Obama's economic agenda has not succeeded. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke outlined plans to spend $40 billion a month to buy mortgage bonds and keep short-term interest rates at record lows through mid-2015 as a way to revitalize a slow-growing economy with an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.
"What Bernanke's doing is saying that what the president's saying is wrong," Romney said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America." ''The president's saying the economy's making progress, coming back. Bernanke's saying, 'No, it's not. I've got to print more money."
The former Massachusetts governor also said in the ABC interview that he wasn't worried about various polls, calling it "politics." He said he believes the election will be decided by people "who are in the middle" and said he thinks his message about creating jobs will appeal to them.
He said he's looking forward to a series of debates with Obama next month and said he thinks his challenge will be to get his message across to the voters.
"The president tends to — how shall I say it? — say things that are not true," he said. Romney conceded that "beating an incumbent is never easy" and said that Obama "exudes an aura of likeability."
"I think he's going to say a lot of things that are not accurate," Romney said, adding that he doesn't want to "spend my time correcting things that are not accurate."
Obama campaigned Thursday in Golden, Colo., telling his audience that his administration would do "whatever is necessary to protect all Americans who are serving abroad. In the wake of an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three aides, Obama vowed that "those who killed our fellow Americans" will be brought to justice.
The Obama campaign continued to hammer Romney on Friday for refusing to release his tax returns. In vetting candidates on his short list for a running mate, a new Obama web video says, Romney demanded to examine 10 years of tax returns. The video goes on to list five possible reasons Romney has made only one year of tax returns public.
Romney keeps millions of dollars of his wealth in foreign tax havens and pays a lower tax rate than most middle-class Americans by aggressively taking advantage of tax loopholes that are available only to the rich, the Obama campaign says. The video concludes that the No. 1 reason he won't release more returns is that "he thinks coming clean will hurt him in the election."
Romney spent his Thursday evening raising cash in the wealthy neighborhoods of Long Island, N.Y., first at the home of hedge fund manager Lee Ainslie, and then at the home of Robert Rosenthal, chairman of an investment banking firm. He was to have another fundraiser in New York on Friday morning before heading to Ohio. Romney's campaign had no immediate details on his cash haul from the New York swing.
Republicans also awaited an Obama administration report, expected to be released Friday, on how it would implement $110 billion in across-the-board cuts in defense and domestic spending due to take effect Jan. 2. The threatened cuts would kick in if Congress and the White House, by year's end, fail to reach a deal to cut the budget deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
Obama video: http://tinyurl.com/9fpyz9c
Feller reported from Locust Valley, N.Y. Associated Press writers Charles Babington in Golden, Colo., and Steve Peoples in Boston contributed to this report.
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