Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, greets his running… (Justin Sullivan, Getty…)
NORTH CANTON, Ohio — Appealing to the same voters through different strategies, President Obama and Mitt Romney forwarded their arguments across the key swing states on Friday as they kept an eye on an approaching storm that threatened their campaign travel.
Romney hit Iowa and Ohio, criticizing new economic reports as evidence of a need for change in the White House and painting a troubling picture of a second Obama term.
"You see, if he's reelected you're going to have the status quo. You're going to have more of the same for four years," Romney told thousands at a rally in bitterly cold weather on a high school football field. "He calls it forward, I call it forewarned. You've seen what the last four years have brought."
He singled out college students, who supported Obama in record numbers four years ago.
"I don't understand how a college kid could vote for Barack Obama, not because he's a bad guy, but just because he doesn't understand that as he spends this money and says how much he's helping you, he's in fact spending your money, and you're going to have to pay it back with interest," Romney said.
Obama made his case Friday through interviews with various outlets, including MTV, talk radio and seven local news stations in battleground states.
Obama's media marathon was tailored to reach the voters he needs most. He talked to young people on MTV, chatting about gay marriage, Facebook and his daughters. He reached African American voters in an interview with the Urban Radio Network. Voters in Reno, Denver, Des Moines, Milwaukee, Miami, Charlotte, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio — all residents of swing states — saw Obama on the local news.
Both candidates were eyeing not only the onrushing calendar but a nearing storm, Hurricane Sandy, that is expected to bring severe rainfall and flooding to a giant stretch of the Atlantic Coast.
Romney canceled his third event in Virginia on Sunday and will instead campaign in Ohio. The campaign left open the option of rearranging the rest of its Sunday schedule on Saturday. Hoping to beat the storm, Obama plans to leave Washington on Sunday for a campaign trip to Florida.
The storm's complications matter because the contests in a number of the swing states are achingly close. The Republican campaign, which urgently needs a victory in Ohio, was particularly focused there. Besides Romney and Ryan's joint stop in North Canton on Friday night, Romney hit three stops Thursday, and Ryan was in Cleveland on Wednesday and will kick off an eight-city, two-day bus tour on Saturday.
But collecting the 270 electoral votes needed for victory requires wins elsewhere too, so Romney started his day with an event in Ames, Iowa, another tossup state. Romney seized on new measures showing modest economic growth to argue that Obama's policies have failed. The figures showed the nation's economy grew at an annual rate of 2% in the last quarter.
"After the stimulus was passed, the White House promised that the economy would now be growing at 4.3% — over twice as fast," Romney said. "Slow economic growth means slow job growth and declining take-home pay. That's what four years of President Obama's policies have produced."
The speech at Kinzler Construction Services in Ames was marked by some irony: The firm benefited from Obama's actions, receiving nearly $700,000 in stimulus funds, as first noted by the Center for American Progress. Romney has previously held events at other places that received stimulus money, such as Otterbein University in Ohio and Watson Truck & Supply in New Mexico.
In his interviews, the president touched on a range of subjects. Asked about security at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, at the time of the killings of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, he said the matter was being fully investigated. Asked whether the results of that inquiry ought to be released before election day, Obama told 9NEWS in Denver that linking the investigation to the campaign was politicizing the attack.
"The election has nothing to do with four brave Americans getting killed and us wanting to find out what happened," Obama said. "We want to make sure we get it right, particularly because I have made a commitment to the families impacted as well as to the American people: We're going to bring those folks to justice."
In an interview with MTV host Sway, Obama repeated that he believes gay couples should be able to marry. But he also said that he would not push for new federal legislation legalizing same-sex marriages in a second term.
"Historically, marriages have been defined at the state level," Obama said. "For us to try to legislate federally is probably the wrong way to go."
Asked about his worries as a parent, Obama said he had concerns about social networks, particularly for his older daughter, 14-year-old Malia.
"Because she's well-known, I'm very keen on her protecting her privacy. She can make her own decisions obviously later as she gets older, but right now even just for security reasons, she doesn't have a Facebook page," he said.
Mehta reported from Ohio and Iowa and Hennessey from Washington.