THE RACE: Obama, Romney trying to stay on message

By TOM RAUM | July 17, 2012 | 12:40 PM EDT

President Barack Obama walks up the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Md., Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Obama is heading to Texas for fundraising and campaign events. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney both keep trying to change the subject.

Obama doesn't want voters to dwell on recent gloomy economic statistics but to see a fledgling recovery that is gaining steam, if slowly.

His underlying message: brighter days are ahead, so stick with me.

Romney's core theme is the weak economy, Obama's handling of it and how Romney's own private-sector background makes him best able to nurture economic growth and bring back jobs.

So he's working to keep the focus there and doesn't want to keep discussing details of his personal finances and questions about his tenure at private-equity firm Bain Capital. Only he keeps getting thrown off message.

As Romney campaigned Tuesday in western Pennsylvania, the Obama camp aired an ad in the state calling attention to Romney's overseas financial dealings and refusal to release more than two years of tax returns.

Suggesting Romney "has used every trick in the book" to minimize his taxes, an announcer says, "Makes you wonder if some years, he paid any taxes at all."

It's part of Democratic efforts to paint Romney as wealthy and out of touch.

Even some prominent Republicans, including former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, have urged Romney to release more financial records. So far, he has declined.

Romney was pressing ahead with an attack on what he calls the president's "crony capitalism." He alleges that, while others are suffering economic pain Obama has been steering government contracts and cash to campaign contributors — a claim the White House denies.

While Obama's contributors have been rewarded, "It's not so good to be middle class in America," Romney suggests.

Obama was in Republican-leaning Texas on Tuesday, with stops in San Antonio and Austin as he courted Latino and gay voters and sought campaign donations.


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