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After final debate, Obama says election comes down to trust
DELRAY BEACH, Florida |
DELRAY BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned voters on Tuesday that Republican rival Mitt Romney cannot be trusted to deal honestly with the public as the presidential campaign shifted from televised confrontation to a frantic dash for votes.
After three televised debates that have boosted Romney's prospects before the November 6 election, Obama delivered what is likely to be his closing argument: that, unlike Romney, he has been honest with voters about his plans to deliver a broadly shared prosperity over the next four years.
"There is no more serious issue in a presidential campaign than trust," Obama told a rally of 11,000 people in Florida. "Everything he's doing right now is trying to hide his real positions in order to win this election."
The charge ties together several critiques of Romney, from shifting policy stances that Obama mockingly attributes to "Romnesia" to a persistent charge that the wealthy former private-equity executive is more concerned with helping fellow millionaires than the struggling middle class.
The Romney campaign said Obama is resorting to attacks in the absence of new ideas of his own.
"It's emblematic of the fact that the president doesn't have a closing argument for the American people about why he should be re-elected," Romney aide Kevin Madden told reporters aboard the campaign plane.
Romney was due to hold campaign events in Nevada and Colorado later in the day, while Obama flew to Ohio following his Florida rally.
Obama leads Romney among likely voters by a statistically insignificant margin of 1 percentage point, according to Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll on Tuesday.
Obama unveiled a glossy booklet outlining his second-term agenda, which will serve as an important prop for his massive grassroots network. The campaign said it will print 3.5 million copies for volunteers to distribute in door-to-door canvassing.
The booklet contains no new proposals, but could help rebut what Romney aides say will be their central message in the final two weeks of the campaign: that the country cannot afford another four years of an Obama presidency because he has no plan to fix the sluggish economy.
Madden called the plan a "glossy panic button."
In their final debate on Monday, Obama accused the former Massachusetts governor of a reckless and inconsistent approach to international affairs. Romney played down his disagreements with the president as he sought to present a reassuring image to a war-weary public.
Voters polled after the debate said Obama dominated the exchange, an assessment shared by many political observers.
Romney allies said Obama's aggressive performance underscored his lack of new ideas.
"What we got from President Obama were mostly attacks on Mitt Romney. That's not an agenda," Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
NO GAFFES FOR ROMNEY
However, Romney avoided gaffes that would disqualify him in the eyes of voters and emerged from the three debates with an energized base, a full war chest and a sense of momentum.
Most importantly, nearly half the electorate now sees him as a plausible president.
"He passed the commander in chief test and, in our view, emerged looking more like a winner," wrote Charles Gabriel, an analyst with the research group Capital Alpha Partners. "A loss by the president is seeming more viable by the day."
Obama holds a narrow advantage in the handful of battleground states that will decide the election.
But Romney appears to be firming up his lead in North Carolina, a state Obama had hoped to carry, and his campaign is pushing to put Democratic-leaning states like Wisconsin in play.
Florida is also a critical swing state in the election, and most polls show Romney leading there by a narrow margin.
Statistics compiled by the Miami Herald show that Republicans have a slight edge among the 830,000 voters who have cast their ballots by mail already. Democrats hope to even the score with early in-person voting, which starts on Saturday.
Obama campaign officials say their efforts to encourage supporters to vote early are locking in their advantage among minorities, younger voters and those who less reliably participate in elections.
"The Romney campaign has bet that young people and minorities won't turn out. The early voting is proving the folly of that gamble," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said on a conference call.
Obama supporters say they have expected a close race all along, given the polarized electorate and the sluggish economy.
"You knew this election was going to tighten up no matter who our opponent was," Vice President Joe Biden said on CBS's "This Morning."
To accompany their get-out-the-vote efforts, both campaigns and their allies are saturating the airwaves with new advertisements in an effort to sway the remaining undecided voters. Reuters/Ipsos polling indicates that roughly one in five voters may be undecided or willing to switch their support.
In a new ad set to air in swing states, Obama highlights successes like the auto-industry bailout and urges voters to read his plan for a second term.
"We're not there yet but we've made real progress, and the last thing we should do is turn back now," he says.
Restore Our Future, a group allied with Romney, released two new ads that will air in swing states.
"Barack Obama's economy isn't working. Demand better," one of the ads says.
(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert, Alina Selyukh and Sam Youngman; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Karey Wutkowski and Doina Chiacu)
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