Romney, Obama in final flurry of visits to swing states


THE FINAL frenzy of presidential election campaigning will take US president Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney to the swing states of Colorado,Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin before election day on Tuesday.

In closing arguments at rallies in Ohio and Wisconsin yesterday, the candidates talked about change, bipartisanship and Mr Obama’s record in office.

“Governor Romney, he’s a very talented salesman,” Mr Obama said in Ohio. “He’s tried as hard as he can to repackage these same [Bush-era] policies and offer them up as change. But we know what change looks like, and what the governor is offering ain’t it . . . Refusing to answer questions about the details of your policies until after the election – that’s not change.”

Romney advertisements that give the misimpression that Chrysler is sending US car industry jobs to China backfired badly this week. He has been denounced by Chrysler and General Motors and at least a half-dozen newspapers in Ohio and Michigan.

At three Obama rallies in Ohio yesterday, the crowd laughed and cheered when the president accused Mr Romney of “massaging facts”.

Mr Obama asked undecided voters to “think about the issue of trust . . . After four years as president, you know me. You may not agree with every decision I’ve made . . . but you know what I believe. You know where I stand. You know I tell the truth.”

In response to chants of “four more years” at Obama rallies, Mr Romney told a crowd in Wisconsin: “We are shouting ‘four more days’.”

He ridiculed Mr Obama’s record in office, saying: “Words are cheap. A record is real and earned with effort. Change cannot be measured in speeches; it is measured in achievements . . . Four years ago, candidate Obama promised to do so very much, but he has fallen so very short. He promised to be a ‘post-partisan president’ but he became the most partisan – blaming, attacking, dividing.”

As if responding to Mr Romney’s accusations, Mr Obama said: “The status quo in Washington has fought us every step of the way. They’ve spent millions trying to stop us from reforming the healthcare system. They’ve spent millions trying to keep us from reforming Wall Street. They engineered a strategy of gridlock in Congress, refusing to compromise on ideas that both Democrats and Republicans in the past have supported.”

Mr Romney has crowded into Mr Obama’s territory as champion of the middle class. In the final days of the campaign, he is blaming the president for Republicans’ refusal to co-operate in Congress.

“He said he would work across the aisle on the most important issues,” Mr Romney said.

“He has not met on the economy, or on the budget, or on jobs, with either the Republican leader of the House or the Senate since July. Instead of bridging the divide, he has made it wider . . . He has never led, never worked across the aisle, never truly understood how jobs are created in the economy.”

Mr Romney’s denunciation of Mr Obama as a partisan ideologue has been undermined by endorsements for Mr Obama from the Republican former secretary of state Colin Powell and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg (a former Republican), and by Mr Obama’s “bromance” with New Jersey governor Chris Christie while they worked together to mitigate the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

Mr Christie is a leading hope of the Republican Party if Mr Romney loses on Tuesday. His effusive praise for Mr Obama was ranked as a game-changing “October surprise” by commentators.

The final jobs report before the election, issued yesterday, was expected to be of major importance but, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mr Christie’s new friendship with Mr Obama and rancorous summings-up on both sides, it seemed almost insignificant.

The White House called the news that total employment rose by 171,000 last month “further evidence that the US economy is continuing to heal”.

Alan Krueger, chairman of Mr Obama’s economic advisers, explained the uptick from 7.8 per cent to 7.9 per cent unemployment as more people entering the labour force.

Mr Romney called the jobs report “a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill”.

At the end of an 18-month campaign costing $2 billion (€1.56 billion), weariness is the predominant feeling on all sides.

“At this point, I just want it over,” wrote conservative blogger Erick Erickson. “I’m worn out. I am struggling to still care now that I have cast my absentee ballot.”

National Public Radio apologised to four-year-old Abigael Evans from Colorado, whose mother posted a video that went viral on YouTube of the sobbing child saying “I’m tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney”.

“On behalf of NPR and all other news outlets, we apologise to Abigael and all the many others who probably feel like her,” the station said.

“We must confess, the campaign’s gone on long enough for us, too. Let’s just keep telling ourselves: ‘Only a few more days, only a few more days, only a few more days’.”