WASHINGTON - With an eye on a huge storm threatening the East Coast of the United States, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney are starting a 10-day sprint to the finish line in a deadlocked contest revolving around a handful of battleground states.
The approaching Hurricane Sandy forced both campaigns to adjust travel schedules and cancel events. Even at this late date in the campaign, neither side wanted to risk the appearance of putting politics ahead of public safety.
With the Nov. 6 election fast approaching, Obama and Romney are tied nationally.
The Republican nominee is trying to seize the momentum and turn a wave of Republican enthusiasm into an electoral victory.
His running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, was out early in rainy, chilly Ohio to start a two-day, 400-mile (640-kilometer ) bus tour of Ohio's small towns and cities. Ryan said Obama has not made the case for another four years in office.
"He can't run on his record. The Obama economic agenda failed not because it was stopped; it failed because it was passed," Ryan told 1,000 supporters at a factory in New Philadelphia in eastern Ohio.
The economy remains the race's dominant issue. But voters who are still undecided aren't likely to be swayed by a mixed report released Friday by the Commerce Department, experts said.
"For the average American, I don't think changes in quarterly GDP" make a big difference in their perception of the economy, said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.
With the Commerce Department reporting a modest 2 percent growth rate unlikely to make a big dent in unemployment, Romney said Obama inherited a bad situation when he took office and "made the problem worse." He criticized Obama for failing to reduce borrowing and spending, protect entitlement programs or reach deals with Republicans.
Obama claims progress during his term on fixing the economy, though conceding it hasn't been fast enough, and says Romney's policies would only make matters worse.
Romney was switching his attention to Florida yesterday after spending much of the week focused on shoring up support in Ohio. While the Midwestern swing state could be crucial to Romney's re-election prospects, he also faces tremendous pressure to carry Florida, which offers 29 Electoral College votes, the most of any swing state.
Obama carried Florida by just 3 percentage points in 2008 and polls show the candidates tied.
The former Massachusetts governor was scheduled to attend three rallies, the first in Pensacola along the state's conservative Panhandle. He then moves to suburban Orlando before finishing his day with an evening rally just outside of Tampa, the site of the Republican National Convention. Romney was to be joined at all three events by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
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