Romney to build on debate boost

Up close, personal in swing states

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CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — An energized Mitt Romney is looking to build on his new campaign momentum in the country’s swing states, including in Ohio, where he is deploying some of his heaviest political artillery and personalizing his message in his hunt for undecided voters.

Capitalizing on his well-received debate performance, the Republican presidential nominee has dropped his busy fundraising schedule in favor of more traditional campaign stops. In fact, since his first faceoff with President Obama, Mr. Romney has held nearly a dozen events, including three stops in Florida and four in Virginia, compared with just one fundraiser.

On Tuesday, the former Massachusetts governor swung through Iowa and then Ohio, where he plans to spend the next several days, and told a massive crowd here — estimated at 12,000 — that he thinks the Obama supporters who chant “Four more year! Four more years!” have it all mixed up.

“There are 28 days before the election, and I think the right chant ought to be for them, ‘Four more weeks, four more weeks,’” Mr. Romney said, drawing loud applause and repeated chants of “Four more weeks, four more weeks!’ from the audience.

Team Romney pulled out all the stops for the rally outside a local aquatic and fitness center: a high school marching band and a country singer, as well as Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, and Chris Christie, the tough-talking governor from New Jersey, who said that Mr. Romney is ready to punch Mr. Obama’s ticket back home to Chicago.

“The problem with this president is that he sees all of us are actors and pawns in his great plan to manipulate everything from Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Christie said. “He thinks government and bureaucrats in cubicles … should decide who wins and who loses in Ohio. Let me tell you one thing, Mitt Romney thinks you should decide who wins and loses in America.”

Throughout the day, Mr. Romney struck a confident tone, telling a crowd gathered to see him at a farm in Van Meter, Iowa, “When I become president, I will do everything in my power to strengthen once again the American farm, to strengthen the family farm.”

But he also may have stirred up the abortion debate Tuesday, telling the editorial board of the Des Moines Register that with the exception of issuing an executive order to restore the so-called “Mexico City policy,” which bars taxpayer dollars being used for abortions overseas, he would take a hands-off approach on the issue.

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” he said.

The appearance in the Akron suburbs coincided with a CNN/ORC International Poll that shows that 51 percent of likely Ohio voters support Mr. Obama, while 47 percent support Mr. Romney. That could be a bad omen for Mr. Romney, given that no Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio.

The Romney campaign got a boost from an American Research Group poll that has Mr. Romney holding a razor-thin lead over Mr. Obama here among likely voters.

Stuart Stevens, Mr. Romney’s chief strategist, said the momentum comes from Mr. Romney’s performance in last week’s debate as well as the “natural rhythm of the campaign.”

“We have always believed that voters would turn to Mitt Romney in this campaign,” Mr. Stevens said. “I don’t think of it as a second look. For many voters, it is a first serious look at both candidates. It’s that old Christmas shopping reality. Just a certain percentage of the voters will only tune in when they tune in.”

Still, Romney strategist Kevin Madden emphasized that with less than 30 days to go to the election, the Romney camp is not taking anything for granted.

“This is a campaign that has never gotten too high when things are good and too low when things are bad,” Mr. Madden said.

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