WILLIAMSBURG, VA. - President Barack Obama and Republican
challenger Mitt Romney huddled Monday in intense preparation for
their second debate tonight as polls show a closely fought campaign.
Early voting is under way in dozens of states, giving the
candidates little chance to recover from any slip-ups that come in
these final days.
Obama has been trying to get his supporters to lock in their
choice now, and his campaign announced Monday that he and his wife,
Michelle, would become the first president and first lady to cast
their ballots early.
Obama planned to vote on Oct. 25 during a visit to his home state
of Illinois next week, while Michelle Obama told a rally in
Delaware, Ohio, that she had dropped her absentee ballot in the mail
Monday. "For me, it was Election Day," she said.
With the economy showing some signs of improvement three weeks
before Election Day, President Obama laid down on Monday a full
embrace of the economic record many Republicans say is his biggest
weakness. The president's first act in this critical campaign week
was to announce a new battleground state advertisement featuring
voters discussing the ways their economic conditions have improved
during his term.
Obama's campaign aides say they are encouraged by public and
private surveys showing voters growing more confident about the
direction of the economy. Those trends are behind the new 30-second
spot the campaign is running in Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and Virginia.
"Stick with this guy," a gravelly voiced man says at the end of
the commercial in a point Obama hopes wavering voters will embrace.
A second ad targeted at Ohio voters features former astronaut and
Sen. John Glenn touting Obama's character and economic record.
Aides argue that some voters got a psychological boost when the
unemployment rate fell below 8 percent last month for the first time
since Obama's inauguration. But the campaign says it puts more stock
in economic indicators showing an increase in consumer confidence
and retail spending, which indicate shifts in voter behavior.
Retail sales rose 1.1 percent last month, the Commerce Department
said Monday. That followed a 1.2 percent increase in August, which
was revised slightly higher. Both were the largest gains since
Still, with millions of Americans still out of work, the campaign
is trying to walk a fine line between touting economic gains and
acknowledging that many voters are still struggling.
GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan lambasted Obama's
handling of the deficit during an appearance Monday in Ryan's home
state of Wisconsin. He pointed to a digital scoreboard his campaign
set up at the far end of Carroll University's field house that
tracked the growth of the nation's debt in real time.
"Look at how fast those numbers are running," Ryan said. "We know
without a shred of doubt that we have consigned the next generation
to this path of debt."
He acknowledged that Obama inherited "a tough situation" when he
took office but argued that the president had only made things
worse. Ryan touted Romney's plan to cut taxes by 20 percent across
the board as the path back to economic growth.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said the president
would seek to run on his economic record, not away from it, during
tonight's debate. …