Romney stepping up pace of campaign in battleground states

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 20, 2012 1:21 AM
Romney stepping up pace of campaign in battleground states

By Steve Holland

MIAMI (Reuters) - Mitt Romney is planning to increase the pace of his public campaign events in battleground states as he tries to move past one of the most difficult weeks of his Republican presidential campaign.

During a week in which his campaign has faced infighting and a secret video came to light that made Romney appear like he was writing off nearly half the voting public, the Republican has mostly appeared at fund-raising events in states that are not in doubt -- Democratic-heavy California and the Republican stronghold of Texas.

That will soon change as Romney ramps up his schedule for the last seven weeks of campaigning. Polls show a close race with Obama holding a narrow lead in the race to the November 6 election, and some Republicans have complained that Romney did not appear to be campaigning enough.

Romney aides said that sometimes he will hold three public events a day, which in most election years is a normal pace in the final stretch to election day but for Romney will be a big increase.

As part of the stepped-up schedule, Romney will participate in a three-day bus tour of Ohio next week with his vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, campaign aides said.

It would be difficult for Romney to win the White House without victory in Ohio and Florida, and both states represent challenges. The unemployment rate in Midwestern Ohio is better than the national average of 8.1 percent.

And in retiree-heavy Florida, Romney faces headwinds over a plan championed by Romney's vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, to change the Medicare health insurance plan for seniors.

A Ryan budget blueprint would save money by changing the way Medicare works. It has given Democrats a line of attack against the Republican ticket.

On Thursday in Sarasota, Romney will seek to reassure seniors that his budget-cutting proposals would not affect their retirement benefits.

At the same time, a new Romney TV ad will feature Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio arguing Romney's plans would not affect them.

Romney wants the election to be a referendum on Obama's handling of the weak U.S. economy, but self-inflicted wounds have sidetracked him this week. A secretly recorded video that surfaced on Monday suggested he was writing off Obama supporters as people dependent on government with no sense of personal responsibility.

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"My campaign is about the 100 percent in America and I'm concerned about them," Romney said in an interview with the Spanish-language Univision network in Miami on Wednesday.

"I'm concerned about the fact that over the past four years life has become harder for Americans. More people have fallen into poverty, more people we just learned have had to go onto food stamps," he added.

Some 43 percent of registered voters thought less of Romney after seeing the video, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, while a mostly Republican 26 percent viewed him more favorably. Independent voters were more likely to say the video lowered their opinion of Romney.

Romney hopes to recover by framing the presidential election as a choice between big government and economic growth.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)