Obama and Romney play up military credentials


Mitt Romney has not led a major poll since August 27th and Democratic commentators are asking how long donors will keep contributing, writes LARA MARLOWEin Washington

BARACK OBAMA and Mitt Romney, neither of whom has served in the military, targeted the large number of veterans and defence industry workers in Virginia yesterday as they visited the same states at the same time for the third consecutive day.

In 2008, Obama was the first Democrat to win Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

He leads Romney in polls there, but the Romney campaign says it the state is still winnable because some polls are within the margin of error and there are a significant number of undecided voters.

Romney promised veterans at the American Legion hall in Springfield that he will prevent defence cuts under the “fiscal cliff” agreed by Republicans and Democrats last year.

“It is still a troubled and dangerous world, and the idea of cutting our military commitment by a trillion dollars over this decade is unthinkable and devastating,” he said. “And when I become president of the United States, we will stop it. I will not cut our commitment to our military.”

Romney was scheduled to attend a $50,000 a plate fundraising dinner at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington DC last night.

With the latest Gallup tracking poll, which averages a week’s daily surveys, showing Obama 6 points ahead of Romney nationwide, at 50 to 44 per cent, Democratic commentators are asking how long Romney’s donors will continue contributing.

Romney has not led a major poll since August 27th. At a $2,500 a head fundraising breakfast at the Hilton in New York earlier this month, not a single guest at a table of 10 said they still believed Romney could win, the website Politico reported. Obama was introduced at his rally in Virginia Beach by a former secretary of the navy. “No one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their heads when they come home,” the president said.

“My opponent seems to have different views. He said it was tragic to end the war in Iraq. He won’t tell us how or what he’d do in Afghanistan. I have and I will.”

The two men held a total of five rallies in Ohio on Wednesday. A New York Times/Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday showed Obama 10 points ahead of Romney in the “Buckeye state”.

Romney is trying to play up his compassionate side. In a new television advertisement, he

looks the viewer in the eye and says, “President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is, my policies will make things better for them.”

Some 15 million Americans receive food stamps, Romney continues. “We shouldn’t measure compassion by how many people are on welfare. We should measure compassion by how many people are able to get off welfare and get a good paying job.”

In Ohio, Romney said his “heart aches for the people I’ve seen” on the campaign trail. In an interview with NBC News, he made a rare boast about his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, saying, “Don’t forget – I got everybody in my state insured. One hundred per cent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country.” But at his next rally, Romney again slammed Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Romney seems to have flip-flopped on his promise to cut income tax by 20 per cent for all Americans, telling voters in Westerville, Ohio that they should not “be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions”.

Democrats had pointed out the tax cut was incompatible with Romney’s promise to slash the deficit. He wants to appeal to independent voters who are worried about government debt. While Romney attempts to demonstrate compassion, Obama has grown more acerbic. Alluding to promises by Romney aides that they will “reset” the campaign, the incumbent told a rally in Kent, Ohio, that “no matter how many times they try to reboot their campaign, no matter how many times they try to tell you they’re going to start talking specifics really soon, they don’t do it, and the reason is because the math doesn’t work”.

Obama also mocked Romney advertisements about China. Romney’s recently released 2011 income tax forms show he made a profit on shares in the Chinese-owned state oil company Cnooc, which has described itself as a “weapon” in the service of Beijing and has purchased Iranian petroleum.

“When you see these ads promising to get tough on China, it feels like the fox saying, ‘You know, we need more secure chicken coops’,” Obama said.

“I mean, it’s just not credible.”

In a sign of Republican desperation, prominent members of the party have reversed their condemnation of Todd Akin, the Senate candidate from Missouri who last month said women do not get pregnant from “legitimate rape”.

Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint and Roy Blunt have all endorsed Akin, who Romney asked to drop out of the race.

If Obama is re-elected, the Republicans will have to win four seats to take control of the Senate.

Missouri was one of their best hopes, but the Democratic candidate, Claire McCaskill, has led there since Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment.