Obama makes closing case to late-breaking voters
WASHINGTON (AP) — Battling to win late-breaking undecided voters, President Barack Obama is pressing a closing argument that balances economic optimism with second-term specifics, all while raising doubts about Republican Mitt Romney's trustworthiness.
The revamped strategy is an acknowledgement that Obama must do more than just criticize Romney for shifting his positions. With two weeks left until Election Day, the president still has to articulate what that narrow band of persuadable voters would get if they grant him four more years in office.
The president barreled out of Monday night's third and final debate with a 20-page booklet detailing an array of previously released positions, including spending more on education, boosting manufacturing jobs and raising taxes on the wealthy.
"That's how you build a strong, sustainable economy that has good middle-class jobs to offer," Obama said during a rally in Delray Beach, Fla., Tuesday. "Now it's up to you to choose the path we take from here."
The president also tweaked his criticism of Romney's newly moderate stances, particularly on the foreign policy issues that dominated the third debate. Obama's argument for the homestretch will be that such moves are a sign that voters can't trust the Republican nominee.
"The person who leads this country, you've got to have some confidence that he or she means what he or she says," Obama told Florida voters. "You can trust that I say what I mean and I mean what I say."
Obama advisers see the new approach as a way to capitalize on polls that show voters see the president as more trustworthy than Romney. A Washington Post/ABC News poll last week showed 55 percent of likely voters said Obama is "honest and trustworthy" compared to 47 percent who felt that way about Romney.
The GOP nominee has exuded confidence on the campaign trail following his strong performance in the first debate on Oct. 3. In recent days, he sharply criticized Obama for not providing enough specifics about what he would do in a second term.
Some Democrats have also echoed that critique, quietly griping that the lack of clarity was keeping Obama from closing the deal with undecided voters.
Romney aides dismissed the president's second-term outlines, calling his vision for the future "a repeat of the past."
Obama advisers insisted that Tuesday's push was long-planned, not a reaction to such criticism. A new television ad incorporates more specifics about the president's second-term agenda and was taped days before the final debate.
The spot features Obama speaking to the camera and delivering what amounts to his final case for re-election, both highlighting accomplishments from his first term and promising stronger results in a second.
"We're not there yet. But we've made real progress and the last thing we should do is turn back now," Obama says in the ad. "It's an honor to be your president. And I'm asking for your vote."
At 60-seconds long, the ad represented a significant financial commitment in nine competitive states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin.
Polls show Romney gained nationally after his strong performance in the first debate. Obama advisers insist they maintain an edge in key battleground states, including Ohio, where every Republican has needed to win in order to claim the presidency.
"We are tied, or ahead, in every battleground state, and we're not leaving anywhere where we're tied or ahead," said Jim Messina, the president's campaign manager.
With millions of Americans already casting early votes, Messina said the campaign was focusing on getting out "sporadic voters" and broadening the universe of people who will vote for the president. That includes what he predicted would be record turnout from minority voters.
In 2008, Obama rode early voting advantages to victory despite losing in votes cast on Election Day in Colorado, Florida, Iowa and North Carolina.
Obama advisers say the president will spend nearly every day between now and the Nov. 6 election campaigning in battleground states, though he has some time scheduled in Washington to attend to governing duties.
Underscoring the election's dwindling days, Obama will start a 48-hour, six-state blitz on Wednesday morning. His itinerary was geared at swing voters, with stops in Iowa's frequently up-for-grabs Quad Cities area; Denver, where suburban voters typically determine Colorado's election; and Tampa, Fla., a swing state bellwether.
With both the Obama and Romney campaigns predicting victory, the president's chief strategist, David Axelrod, offered some assurance that at least the end was near.
"We'll know who is bluffing and who isn't in two weeks," he said.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas in Delray Beach, Fla., contributed to this report.
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