WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama tried Thursday to build on the lead he has started to take in the most important battleground states that will decide the November election, promoting what he calls a “new economic patriotism” as Republican challenger Mitt Romney prepares for their crucial first debate next week.
In a two-minute ad aimed at seven states that don’t reliably vote Democrat or Republican, Obama promotes an economic plan he says will create 1 million manufacturing jobs, cut oil imports and hire thousands of new teachers.
The ad is set to air in the two most important of those battleground states, Ohio and Florida, as well as New Hampshire, Virginia, Iowa, Nevada and Colorado.
It is likely that Romney must win either Ohio or Florida to take the election, but the most recent polls show Obama edging ahead in both states. The president is not chosen by popular vote but in state-by-state contests.
On Thursday, the two candidates are scheduled to campaign in the same state for the third straight day, this time in Virginia.
The simultaneous visits follow an all-day duel Wednesday in Ohio, where Romney declared he can do more than Obama to improve the lives of average people. Obama scoffed that a challenger who calls half the nation “victims” was unlikely to be of much help.
Polls show Obama widening his lead in several key states amid backlash from a leaked video in which Romney disparages the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income tax as government-dependent Obama supporters who see themselves as victims and won’t take responsibility for their own lives.
Obama’s campaign was reveling in the latest public polling but trying to crush any sense of overconfidence. “If we need to pass out horse blinders to all of our staff, we will do that,” campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
The latest round of reports on the still-struggling economy can help keep confidence in check. Thursday’s mixed reports showed the weekly number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits was at a nine-week low, but the economy also grew at an even more sluggish pace in the April-June quarter than previously believed.
Meanwhile, new Republican-leaning independent groups have entered the presidential advertising fight. The commercials, aimed at voters who supported Obama in 2008 but are now undecided, join those from the campaigns and outside groups targeting the narrow map of battleground states.
Americans for Job Security launched an $8.7 million ad buy in six battleground states, while the Ending Spending Action Fund, a new conservative group, was set to debut a $10 million, four-state ad campaign on Thursday.
Romney went after working-class voters Wednesday at three stops in Ohio, while Obama rallied college crowds. Early voting in Ohio begins next week.
“If President Obama were to be re-elected, what you’d see is four more years like the last four years, and we can’t afford another four more years like the last four years,” Romney told a boisterous crowd.
Romney’s campaign has been reeling from his caught-on-video comments at a Florida fundraiser last May. The new opinion polls were conducted after the video became public last week.
Romney told ABC News that the race was in a statistical tie in some national polls.
Obama was not about to let the video comments fade away. He said Wednesday that “America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us together, as one nation, as one people.”
And he added: “You can’t make it happen if you write off half the nation before you take office.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.