Obama returned to the campaign trail Thursday with stops in Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado -- all swing states. He had spent Monday and Tuesday in Washington monitoring the progress of Hurricane Sandy before visiting parts of devastated New Jersey Wednesday with Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
Romney -- who toned down his attacks on Obama and turned campaign rallies into relief events for those affected by the hurricane -- returned full force to the stump Thursday as well, campaigning in the battleground state of Virginia.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One the president will be "laying out his closing argument to the America people today in his remarks."
"Now, part of that is laying out the choice between him and his opponent," she said.
The Romney campaign has been emphasizing a theme that this is a change election and that Romney is the candidate of change. In the closing days of the campaign, Obama is striking a theme that he has brought about change as president, and that the change Romney promises "is going back to the same policies that led us into this mess and calling it change," Psaki said.
She said a Romney campaign ad in Ohio implying General Motors Co. used funds from the automobile industry bailout to hire more workers in China than in the United States was "a Hail Mary pass" that raises "a character issue."
"Mitt Romney is closing the campaign in Ohio with an ad of fear -- scare tactics to scare the workers in the state about -- with false statements about what's going to happen at the Jeep plant, when we all know, and the plant has made clear, what the facts are," she said.
GM and Chrysler have denounced the Romney ad, and Vice President Joe Biden said in Florida Wednesday the ad is "an outrageous lie" and "one of the most flagrantly dishonest ads I can ever remember in my political career."
Obama told a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wis., the bipartisan response to the massive storm that struck the U.S. Northeast illustrates that when disaster strikes "there are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm -- just fellow Americans," adding America doesn't need "a partisan agenda."
"We don't need a big government agenda, or a small government agenda. We need a middle-class agenda that rewards hard work and responsibility," Obama said.
Obama said change during his term in office had been frustrated by "protectors of the status quo."
"Over the last four years, every time we tried to make change, they fought back with everything they've got," he said.
At a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Obama told supporters he had spoken by conference call en route to Nevada with mayors and other elected officials in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut and emphasized what he said Wednesday in Brigantine, N.J. -- that "America will not forget them" as they recover and clean up from the storm.
"We are going to make sure they get everything they need," he said. "We're going to cut through the red tape and the bureaucracy."
One who hasn't paused is former President Bill Clinton, who has been a whirling dervish for Obama, racking up mileage as he visits state after state after state in the days before Election Day. Clinton spoke at 13 events in seven states in four days this week, adding to a dizzying campaign schedule observers say is unprecedented for a former president, ABC News reported.
Clinton has rallied or will rally voters in multiple locations in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Minnesota and Iowa, drawing audiences of several thousand in each place.
"You just have to decide," Clinton told supporters in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Wednesday. "Obama's economic plan is better, his budget plan is better, his education plan is better, his healthcare plan is better, his plan to bring America together is better. That is worth standing up for."
Obama campaign officials believe Clinton's endorsement and credibility on the economy can help counter dissatisfaction with the country's current economic state, ABC News said. A New York Times-CBS News poll conducted last week indicated 54 percent of Americans said they think the country is on the wrong track, compared with 39 percent who said they felt things were on the right track.
While he hasn't leveled any of his blistering remarks against Obama during the past few days, Romney did remind audiences he believes the country is heading down the wrong path under the current administration. At an appearance in Coral Gables, Fla., Wednesday, the former Massachusetts governor said the nation's path had created a limping economy where college graduates struggled to find work and 47 million people depended on food stamps, The Washington Times reported.
"I believe that this is the year for us to take a different course," Romney told supporters in Coral Gables.
"I will bring real change and real reform," he said, appropriating Obama's 2008 "change" slogan. "I don't just talk about change -- I actually have a plan to execute change and make it happen."
In Roanoke, Va., Romney criticized Obama's suggestion during an interview this week that he'd like to see a Cabinet department dedicated to oversight of government programs intended to promote employment, increase trade and help small businesses, Politico reported.
Romney said it was a case of adding bureaucracy to the government.
"I don't think adding a new chair in his Cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street," Romney said. "We don't need a secretary of business to understand business. We need a president who understands business."
The Obama campaign said the president was suggesting consolidating existing programs, not setting up new bureaucracy.
The president told his audience in Las Vegas Romney "has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up the very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we've been cleaning up after over these four years, and with a straight face, he's offering them up as change," but he said, "I know what real change looks like because I've fought for it. I've got the scars to prove it.
"And what the governor is offering sure ain't change. Giving more power back to the biggest banks isn't change. Leaving millions without health insurance isn't change. Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy isn't change. Refusing to answer questions about the details of your policies isn't change," Obama said.
"Turning Medicare into a voucher, that is change, but we don't want that change."
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