Obama, Romney launch final blitz

Story highlights

  • A CNN national poll shows the presidential candidates in a dead heat
  • Obama says Romney would bring back policies "that crashed our economy"
  • Romney aims at "expanding the map" in Pennsylvania
  • Running mates matching the candidates' frenetic pace over final two days

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney barnstormed their way across more than a half-dozen battleground states on Sunday, making closing arguments to a closely divided American electorate before Tuesday's vote.

Obama stumped in New Hampshire in the morning, flew to Florida and Ohio, and was headed west to Colorado in the evening. Romney spent Sunday heading east from Iowa to Virginia, with a stop in Ohio and a foray into Pennsylvania in between.

Along the way, Obama painted Tuesday's vote as a choice between policies that had moved the country out of the depths of recession and ones that got it into one in the first place.

"On the one hand, you can choose to return to the top-down policies that crashed our economy," Obama told supporters in Hollywood, Florida, north of Miami. "Or you can join me in building a future that focuses on a strong and growing middle class."

Stumping with former President Bill Clinton in Concord, New Hampshire, he said Romney is trying "to repackage the same old ideas and pretend they're new."

"We know what change looks like, and what he's selling ain't it. It ain't it," Obama said.

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In Cincinnati, the president vowed to win Ohio and the nation's highest office, "one more time."

    Campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the president was "reflective" and "nostalgic" working the crowds.

    "He's enjoying himself," Psaki said, adding, "He's taking in every moment."

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    In Des Moines, Iowa, and Cleveland, Romney told voters that Obama's record, particularly on the economy, didn't warrant returning him to Washington.

    "Throughout this campaign, using everything he can think of, President Obama has tried to convince you his last four years have been a success," Romney told a rally in Cleveland. "So his plan for the next four years is to take all the ideas from his first term -- the borrowing, Obamacare and all the rest -- and do them all over again. He calls his plan 'forward'. I call it forewarned."

    In Des Moines, Romney said that would mean "continued, crippling unemployment. It means stagnant take-home pay. It means depressed home values and a devastated military.

    "Unless we change course, we may be looking at another recession," he said. "We're only two days away from a very different path, from a fresh start."

    While tn Newport News, Virginia, Romney urged supporters to look beyond rhetoric, to the candidates' records.

    "You see, talk is cheap, but a record it's earned," he said. "Change can't be measured in speeches; change is measured in achievements."

    National polls show the race locked in a virtual dead heat, or tied.

    A new CNN poll showed 49% support for Obama, and 49% for Romney.

    A Politico/George Washington University survey has it tied at 48%; an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll indicates Obama at 48% and Romney at 47%; and the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll puts Obama at 49% and Romney at 48%.

    In response to the numbers, a senior official with the Obama campaign said his team is confident in its "ground game."

    "Would rather be us than them," the official said.

    Romney's next stop was in Pennsylvania -- a state most published polls show leaning Democratic. But Romney's running mate, Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, made a stop there Saturday, and Romney was headed for the Philadelphia suburbs Sunday evening.

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    Romney adviser Kevin Madden told reporters on the campaign plane Sunday that Obama is "under-performing" in Pennsylvania, "and it's presented us an opportunity."

    "We have a really strong volunteer infrastructure that we think could make a difference," Madden added. "And that's why we're traveling there with two days to go, and we have spent a lot of time in the last few weeks concentrating on expanding the map."

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    The Obama campaign discounted Romney's chances of reclaiming Pennsylvania, which hasn't gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988. Psaki compared the GOP effort to "climbing Mount Everest without a guide, without a map and without support staff."

    But she added, "We're not taking a single vote for granted," and Clinton will be campaigning all over the state on Obama's behalf.

    Obama's running mate, Vice President Joe Biden, visited Cleveland on Sunday. He told a crowd at a high school that Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, are "running away from what they've stood for the last decade faster than you can imagine."

    "But like a little kid, they can't run away from their shadow until the sun goes down," Biden said. "It's going down Tuesday."

    Ryan started his day with a brief appearance at Lambeau Field, where he tailgated with fellow Green Bay Packers fans ahead of the team's 31-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals. He left before kickoff for Mansfield, Ohio, where he focused on shuttered auto plants and defense cuts in a state where Romney's opposition to the 2008 federal auto bailout of the U.S. auto industry has hurt the GOP. Mansfield was home to plant that made body parts for General Motors before the company's restructuring, when it was shut down.

    "It's not going the right way in some places in America, and you know what it doesn't have to be like this. We don't have to settle for this," Ryan said. "This may be the best that President Obama can do, but it is not the best that America can do."

    CNN Election Calculator: You do the math

    The polling numbers are slightly different in the battlegrounds, where Obama holds a small edge in more states than Romney. But most of those leads are well within the polls' sampling errors.

    Obama ends his blitz Monday with three rallies with rocker Bruce Springsteen in Madison, Wisconsin; Columbus, Ohio, where he'll be joined by rapper Jay-Z; and Des Moines, Iowa. First lady Michelle Obama will introduce the president to a crowd in Iowa, where Obama's 2008 Democratic campaign took off with a surprise win in the caucuses there. The couple then will head to Chicago, where they'll spend Election Day.

    Romney's other stops include Sanford, Florida; Lynchburg and Fairfax, Virginia; Columbus, Ohio; and a finish in Manchester, New Hampshire, before making the short trip to Boston, where he'll spend Election Day.

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