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Romney makes a play for Pennsylvania, Obama plays the Bill Clinton card

  • McClatchy Newspapers
  • Published Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, at 5:36 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, at 7:48 p.m.

— President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney clashed Sunday over who could deliver change to a gridlocked nation as they crisscrossed the country on the second to last day of campaigning in a race that remains too close to call.

No battleground state was too small for a personal visit – by noon Obama had wooed New Hampshire – which has just four electoral votes -- and Romney was rallying in Iowa, which carries just six electoral votes.

But they also went for the bigger prizes, as Obama spoke in Ohio and Florida, while Romney visited Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Romney looked for a last minute upset, traveling to Morrisville outside Philadelphia for a rally that drew tens of thousands.

“What a Philadelphia welcome, thank you,” Romney said after taking the stage to the theme music from Rocky.

Though Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in recent elections and long appeared a lock for Obama, polls released Sunday showed Obama’s lead had shrunk.

“The economy being so bad is turning this Democrat state” Republican, said Kevin Ryan, 48, of Holland, Pa. “I feel the independents wanted to give Obama a chance, but it didn’t work out. I think he (Romney) can win the state.”

In his stump speeches Sunday, Romney sharpened his attack on Obama’s handling of the economy, saying the president “cared more about a liberal agenda than he did about repairing the economy.”

In Des Moines, Iowa, he belittled Obama’s record, asking the audience estimated at 1,440 inside a convention center whether it believed that Obama’s health care law created jobs. “Did his war on coal, oil and gas create jobs?” Romney said. “Does raising taxes put people to work?”

He painted a bleak picture of America under Obama, charging that four more years would lead to “lower take home pay, higher prices for gasoline, for health insurance, for food, for clothing.”

“I not only promise change,: he added, “I have a record of achieving it.”

Earlier Sunday, in New Hampshire, with former president Bill Clinton at his side, Obama sought to reprise the glory days of the Clinton years while telling an enthusiastic if chilled crowd outside the gold-domed New Hampshire state capitol that Romney represents a return to failed policies.

"New Hampshire, we know our ideas work,” Obama told an audience estimated at 14,000. “We tried them and they worked for middle class families. We tried giving big tax cuts to the wealthiest….And what did we get? Falling incomes and record deficits that we’ve been cleaning up ever since."

Obama’s campaign rhetoric belied the fact that incomes have dropped on his watch, too, and dropped more since the end of the recession than during it. Also, he has presided over the 4 largest budget deficits in history, adding to the national debt rather than cleaning it up.

At the close, Obama shook hands along with Clinton as the former president’s 1992 campaign anthem, "Don’t Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)” blared out of loudspeakers.

As the candidates worked the voters, strategists for both sides took to TV and Twitter, seeking to exude confidence about winning a race that is going to come down to who best can get their voters to the polls.

As the candidates worked the voters, strategists for both sides took to TV and Twitter, seeking to exude confidence about winning a race that is going to come down to who best can get their voters to the polls.

A Pew Research Center poll released Sunday found Obama with an edge nationally, 48-45. A new Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll found the two deadlocked among likely voters nationally at 48 percent. The poll also found them tied among political independents at 46 percent. Obama had trailed Romney among the key group of voters.

Polls in the small swing states showed one race too close to call and another breaking for Obama.

A new Des Moines Register Iowa poll showed Obama leading Romney 47-42. In New Hampshire, the Granite State Poll Sunday showed a tie. Two weeks ago, Obama led by 8.

Both candidates were making pitches Sunday in the big battleground states, as well: Obama appeared at a high school in Hollywood, Florida, and at an indoor rally in Cincinnati with Stevie Wonder. He was to end the day at a community college in Aurora, Colo., with rocker Dave Matthews.

Romney stopped in Cleveland, where his campaign plane taxied past Air Force Two carrying Vice President Joe Biden, before heading to Pennsylvania.

G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Pennsylvania’s Franklin and Marshall College, said despite appearances by Romney and Ryan in Pennsylvania and a last-minute advertising blitz, Romney still faces “a long climb” in the Keystone State.

“We’ll see,” Madonna said. “There were no commercials, no visits except for these and two others. Now, they (Romney and supporting groups) are dumping by one estimate $11 million in commercials.”

Romney advisors said Obama is polling below 50 percent in Bucks County – an area outside Philadelphia with a high concentration of swing voters.

“We can have an impact on that region and then ultimately be in a position to win the state,” said Kevin Madden, a Romney senior adviser. He added that with Obama under 50, “he’s in a place where he’s in a position of vulnerability in that state.”

The Obama campaign dismissed Romney’s Pennsylvania pitch but will counter Romney Monday by dispatching Clinton to rallies in Philadelphia, Blue Bell, Pittsburgh and Scranton.

Clinton has done 27 events for Obama across the country, including a large rally in Virginia Saturday night that attracted 24,000. The former president, who launched his presidency with a surprise second place finish in the New Hampshire primary 20 years ago, remains a draw there too.

The two sides battled it out on the Sunday talk shows as well, with strategists from each camp insisting his candidate would win.

Obama advisor David Plouffe insisted Obama’s ground game would push the president over the top in the battleground states. He called Romney’s sudden Pennsylvania trip "a desperate ploy at the end of a campaign," noting that Obama has "been working there for two years."

Romney adviser Ed Gillespie compared the visit to Obama’s trip to Indiana in 2008. Indiana was then viewed as a Republican stronghold, but Obama ended up winning it.

"The map has expanded," Gillespie insisted.

McClatchy Washington correspondents Lesley Clark and David Lightman contributed to this report

Email: wdouglas@mcclatchydc.com; twitter: ; email:akumar@mcclatchydc.com; twitter:anitakumar01

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