Obama, Romney finely focus stretch drive to Election Day

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President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney continued to refine their closing arguments to voters Wednesday with an eye toward the handful of swing states and key demographic groups that will decide the election next month.

Both campaigns took time out to spin perceptions about which side had the momentum down the stretch in a race that remains essentially tied.

According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News daily tracking poll, the contest remained unchanged from Tuesday, with 49 percent of likely voters nationally backing Mr. Romney and 48 percent supporting Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama sat for an interview with NBC late-night talk show host Jay Leno and stumped in Iowa, Colorado and Nevada -- states that have a combined 21 electoral votes -- kicking off what he called a "48-hour fly-around marathon campaign extravaganza."

"We're going to pull an all-nighter," he said at a rally in Davenport, Iowa. "No sleep."

Mr. Romney covered similar ground with large rallies in Nevada, Iowa and Ohio (30 combined electoral votes), claiming the label of front-runner, even though the path to 270 electoral votes still looks more challenging for the former Massachusetts governor than it does for Mr. Obama.

With the debates behind him, Mr. Romney is trying to build momentum this week, staging large and enthusiastic rallies while suggesting that the Obama campaign has stalled. The Republican nominee, who lagged behind Mr. Obama for months this summer and into the fall, told some 2,500 supporters at a Reno arena that the debates were "propelling" his campaign.

"The Obama campaign is slipping and shrinking," Mr. Romney said. "The president can't seem to find an agenda to help America's families. Our campaign is a growing movement across this country where people recognize we're going to bring -- build a brighter future for the American family, for every family in this great country."

Mr. Obama unveiled a glossy 20-page booklet Tuesday that details his agenda for a second term, which includes hiring 100,000 teachers and increasing manufacturing jobs.

The Obama team pushed back against the "Mittmentum" narrative, with top Obama strategist David Plouffe saying the Romney team has "tried to take advantage of some of these national polls," some of which show Mr. Romney with a slight lead. "I believe they are overstating their Electoral College situation; whether that is consistent with their data, and their data's flawed, I don't know," he said.

The Obama campaign touted a formidable ground game in Virginia, which has a relatively low unemployment rate and a demographic mix of African-American, young and college-educated voters who favored Mr. Obama in 2008.

"We've never stopped building the grass-roots campaign that we started in 2008," said Obama national field director Jeremy Bird. "We all know -- and we've said from the beginning -- that this will be a close election, and our grass-roots organization is going to make the difference."

Polls show a narrow race in Florida, where Mr. Obama is set to campaign today, and in Virginia, where GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan was scheduled to appear the same day.

At Cleveland State University, Mr. Ryan delivered a speech Wednesday billed by the Romney campaign as a major policy speech on upward mobility. The university is in the heart of the city, which in turn anchors a Democrat-friendly industrial strip of Ohio along Lake Erie.

The speech marked an effort to cast Mr. Romney as more compassionate than he's given credit for, as polls show him trailing the president on the question of which candidate voters trust more to deal with the day-to-day economic concerns of middle-class voters. "We're still trying to measure compassion by how much government spends," Mr. Ryan said, "not by how many people we help escape from poverty."

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