President Barack Obama addresses a campaign rally at Lima Senior High School… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)
As a Wisconsin crowd chanted "Four more days," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney offered the "closing argument" of his presidential campaign Friday, framing the choice in Tuesday's election as a vote for "more of the same" or "real change."
President Obama offered his own closer to audiences in Ohio, telling them the election offered a choice between "you're on your own" economics advocated by Romney and a continuation of Democratic policies that brought prosperity during the administration of President Clinton. They could, he suggested, do so again.
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As the long campaign dwindled to its last four days, the two candidates spun around the Midwest, with Obama circling through Ohio, from Hilliard to Springfield to Lima, and Romney touching down in both Wisconsin and Ohio — on a day that saw him wake before dawn in Virginia and that would end near midnight in New Hampshire.
It was all part of a typically frantic endgame during which the candidates will make appearances in as many of the key battleground states as possible, pushing the limits of their endurance to make their cases to a relatively tiny number of remaining swing voters and rouse their committed supporters to vote and to persuade others to do so.
As Romney's campaign plane lifted off from Norfolk, Va., just before 8 a.m., he was still writing the speech he would deliver a short time later in West Allis, Wis., just outside Milwaukee. Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd at the Wisconsin state fairgrounds, the GOP nominee said he would be more committed than the president to working in a spirit of bipartisanship in Washington.
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He argued that Obama had promised to be a post-partisan president but had been unable to find common ground with Republican leaders.
The president's record, he said, was one of "blaming, attacking, dividing."
Romney argued that another four years under Obama would mean "$20 trillion in debt, crippling unemployment, stagnant take-home pay, depressed home values and a devastated military." Without a change in course, he said, "We may be looking at another recession."
Romney also tried to lay the burden of higher gas prices at the president's feet, telling the crowd that the average American family pays $2,000 more a year for the gasoline than in 2008.
Later in the day, he delivered a speech at a mining equipment factory in Etna, Ohio, focusing more heavily on energy policy, an issue that has found resonance among voters. "We're going to make sure, No. 1, we take full advantage of the energy resources in this country — our coal, our oil, our gas, our renewables," he said. "We're going to review our regulations as they relate to coal to make sure that burning coal is done in a clean way, but we're not going to kill the industry like you see the EPA doing under this administration."
Obama also touched on energy policy during a speech in a packed gymnasium in Springfield, Ohio.
"I don't want a tax code that subsidizes oil company profits when oil companies are already making a lot of money," he said. "I want to support the clean-energy jobs of tomorrow. I want to support the new technology that is going to cut our oil imports in half by 2020. I don't want a tax code that rewards companies that are shipping jobs overseas; I want to reward companies that are taking root right here in Springfield, Ohio. Right here in Lordstown, in Toledo, in Youngstown."
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Obama also tried to tie differences in energy policy to a larger theme.
"Remember, in the eight years after Bill Clinton left office, they tried this top-down economics, they tried this 'you're on your own' economics," he said. "We tried giving big tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. We tried giving insurance companies and oil companies and big Wall Street banks a free license to do whatever they pleased. We tried it. And what did we get? We got falling incomes, record deficits, the slowest job growth in half a century, and we ended up with an economic crisis that we've been cleaning up after ever since."
Obama also told voters that Romney was misleading them about American auto jobs fleeing to China, and he tried to make the case that his policies have set the nation on a better economic course. "You don't scare hardworking Americans just to scare up some votes," Obama said. "That's not what being president's about."
With Ohio looming large in the electoral math, the president hammered away at the impact of the government's auto industry bailout, given the large number of auto workers in Ohio.
"I understand that Gov. Romney has had a tough time here in Ohio because he was against saving the auto industry," Obama said. "I get that it's a problem for him. But you can't run away from that position, especially when you're on videotape saying the words, 'Let Detroit go bankrupt.'"
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Parsons reported from Springfield and Reston from West Allis, Wis.
Times Staff Writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report.