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President Obama strikes elevated themes in battleground states

Joined at one rally by former President Clinton, he promises to continue championing the underprivileged. 'I'm not ready to give up on the fight.'

November 04, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey, Washington Bureau
  • President Obama campaigns in Cincinnati on Sunday.
President Obama campaigns in Cincinnati on Sunday. (Chip Somodevilla, Getty…)

CONCORD, N.H. — Promising to champion the voiceless in Washington, President Obama bounced from battleground to battleground on Sunday bringing an arsenal of famous friends to round up votes as the clock wound down on his reelection campaign.

With rallies in New Hampshire, Florida and Ohio, Obama entered the final 48 hours on the trail with a fresh vow to fight for the underrepresented and underprivileged. Grayed by the political battles of the last four years — "with the scars to prove it" — Obama said he would never surrender in the fight for the middle class.

"I'm here today because I'm not ready to give up on the fight," Obama told a crowd in Concord. "I am not ready to give up on the fight, and I hope you aren't either."

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Obama's elevated themes are a long way from the snarky bite of his speeches just a couple of weeks ago, remarks that mocked Republican rival Mitt Romney as forgetting his past positions — "Romnesia" — or trying to blame Big Bird for the country's fiscal woes. Then the president and his campaign team were trying to block a possible late-campaign Romney surge. Now, as he tries to wring every last Democratic vote out of contested territory, the president is trying to inspire voters by reminding them why so many backed him four years ago.

"Back in 2008, we talked about change we can believe in. But I also said this is hard — because I wasn't just talking about changing presidents or changing parties," Obama said in Hollywood, Fla. "I was talking about changing how politics is done in this country."

Under a crisp blue sky in Concord, Obama was reaching back farther, trying to remind some why they may have voted Democratic 20 years ago. For only the second time in the campaign, the president stumped with former President Clinton, arguably the Democrat best able to carry the mantle of champion of the working class.

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In remarks that ran longer than the candidate's, Clinton vouched for the president on economic policy, foreign policy and bipartisanship — a direct appeal to independents.

"I respect a president that goes to work every day, fights through, lives through disappointments, keeps looking for things that work," Clinton said.

Both men pointed to super storm Sandy as evidence of the president's bipartisan record. Obama described the recovery efforts as evidence of the post-partisan America he frequently envisioned in 2008, but that never quite materialized.

"We will not stop," he said. "We rise and fall as one nation."

Clinton went further, using Obama's response to the storm — jumping off the campaign trail and working closely with Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey — as an attack on Romney.

"It was a stunning example of how 'We're all in this together' is a way better philosophy than 'You're on your own,'" he said.

There was evidence that the opportunity to show himself working the federal levers during a national crisis may have helped Obama. Two closely watched national surveys showed the president with a slight edge over Romney: The Pew Research Center survey projected a 50%-47% margin for the president and the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found him ahead 48% to 47%.

The president's campaign has long dismissed such national polls, saying they are singularly focused on the battleground states. And as election day nears, the president is trying to touch all possible markers along his various paths to 270 electoral votes. The most likely paths for Obama all seem to run through Ohio, where he rallied supporters at the University of Cincinnati and was to return Monday.

The campaign that officially kicked off amid the melting snow of spring was now ending with crowds bracing against an autumn wind as they waited in line to see the president. An estimated 14,000 turned out to see the two Democrats in downtown Concord. Obama then flew to Hollywood, Fla., where 23,000 greeted him.

The president has been aided in his late push to reach voters by a cadre of celebrity supporters. Stevie Wonder performed before the president's rally in Cincinnati. Hip-hop star Pitbull warmed up the crowd in Florida.

Clinton himself is something of a rock star in New Hampshire, the state where he staged his own political comeback in 1992 and where, for a time, his wife nearly blocked Obama's presidential pursuit.

That history was not forgotten but quickly dismissed Sunday. Clinton, whose voice has grown hoarse as he hustles across the country for Obama's reelection effort, said that he had worked hard four years ago, but that the stakes were greater today.

"I'm much more enthusiastic now than I was then," he said.

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