Obama chides Romney over Republican's rape slip
DENVER, Colorado – President Barack Obama's camp seized on Wednesday on "outrageous" comments about rape by a Republican candidate backed by his rival Mitt Romney, in a determined new pitch for the votes of women.
Obama is barnstorming the country in what he hailed as an eight-state, 40 hour "campaign marathon extravaganza," trying to shore up his re-election bid by building a firewall of victories across the key camapign battlegrounds.
Romney was on similar territory, telling voters in the western swing state Nevada, where Obama was due later, that the president's campaign in the neck-and-neck election boiled down to four words: "More of the same".
"The president has been unable to find an agenda and communicate an agenda and defend an agenda," Romney said, saying Obama's attacks on his policies proved the president was out of ideas for supercharging the sluggish economy.
But the Republican's effort to focus on Obama's economic record was complicated by a new row over comments by Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, once again throwing a spotlight on his party's stance on women.
Mourdock said that pregnancy caused by rape was "something God intended to happen" and Obama aides quickly highlighted the fact that Romney, who it says backs 1950s style social policies, had endorsed the Indiana candidate. "The President felt those comments were outrageous and demeaning to women," Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, adding that it was "perplexing" that Romney would not take down an ad featuring him endorsing Mourdock. The row put Romney in an awkward spot with women voters, among whom he trails Obama, which could impact the result in some knife edge races in swing states that will decide the November 6 election.
Romney enjoys strong support among evangelical voters and social conservatives, who oppose abortion as an article of faith and who form an important part of his base of support in battleground states like Ohio.
A new poll by Time magazine in the midwestern rust belt state released Wednesday put Obama up by five points.
Many analysts think victory in Ohio would be enough to put Obama over the top in his quest for the 270 electoral votes needed for the presidency.
There were also signs Romney's momentum of the last few weeks was abating, The Republican led a RealClearPolitics average of national polls by just 0.6 per cent.
With just 13 days to go before he asks voters for a second term, Obama's through-the-night, coast-to-coast trip was to taking in six of the most contested swing states in his battle against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Supporters of Romney, on a similar odyssey, are talking up what they claim is their new momentum in the closing stages.
"We're going to pull an all nighter" Obama told cheering crowds at his rallies in Iowa and Colorado.
As Obama set off for Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Florida, Virginia and Ohio, his campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismissed talk from Romney's camp of "secret momentum," insisting the president was leading or tied in all the key states.
She also branded Romney untrustworthy, accusing him of disguising "extremely conservative" positions on health policy and foreign affairs. "He has been untruthful about his positions with the American people," she said.
"You know I mean what I say," Obama said, in Denver, in a far more energetic performance than his previous visit to the Rocky Mountain city, when he listless debating earlier this month opened the door for a Romney resurgence.
Obama, who has a well appointed cabin in the nose of Air Force One, was to sleep on a red-eye flight from Las Vegas to Tampa later on Wednesday.
On board, he took the opportunity to call undecided voters and campaign workers, drumming up the vote ahead of the November 6 election.
He will also divert from swing states to safe Democratic territory during his tour to tape an appearance on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" in Burbank, California and cast an early vote in his hometown, Chicago.
Light relief was provided by real estate mogul turned reality television star Donald Trump, a former Republican primary candidate, who had threatened a "major announcement" that would shake up the campaign.
Instead, he offered to pay US$5 million to a charity of Obama's choice if the president releases his college records and passport applications – presumably in the hope they contain something embarrassing.
The stunt, from the most high-profile proponent of the debunked conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Africa, was received with derision. Meanwhile, an ad for Obama's campaign underlined the nervousness among Democrats by recalling the 2000 Florida vote recount that ended with George W. Bush narrowly winning office.
Only 537 votes separated Republican Bush from then Democratic vice president Al Gore in Florida. But, after a month of uncertainty, the Supreme Court gave the victory to the Bush, cutting short a recount attempt.
Those 537 votes "changed the course of American history," says the narrator in a new Obama ad, over archive footage of Bush, his vice president Dick Cheney and war, foreclosure signs and protests.
"So this year, if you're thinking that your vote doesn't count. That it won't matter. Well, back then, there were probably at least 537 people, who felt the same way." "Make your voice heard. Vote," concludes the clip. AFP