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Candidates fan out after combative debate

By Julie Pace and Nedra Pickler

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:28 a.m. HST, Oct 17, 2012

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. » Fresh off an intensely combative debate, President Barack Obama, Republican Mitt Romney and their running mates are taking their tuned-up fight to the precious few battleground states where the election is up for grabs with just 20 days to go.

In the sprint to Election Day, Nov. 6, every aspect of the campaign seems to be taking on a fresh sense of urgency — the ads, the fundraising, the grass-roots mobilizing and the outreach to key voting blocs, particularly women. Obama wore a pink breast cancer bracelet while campaigning in Iowa and Romney's campaign dispatched former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to introduce vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan in Ohio.

Rice and Ryan highlighted the plight of women in the current economy, with Ryan reading statistics from the podium on female unemployment and poverty rates under Obama's leadership. "We need to get people back to work," Ryan said. "We need to get this economy turned around."

Romney also quietly began airing a new TV ad suggesting he believes abortion "should be an option" in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake.

The ad is an appeal to women voters, who polls show have favored Obama throughout the race although Romney has been making gains among them. Romney supported abortion rights as Massachusetts governor but now says he opposes abortion with limited exceptions. His campaign didn't announce the ad, but it began running on debate night on stations that reach Virginia, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Romney traveled with comedian Dennis Miller, and singer Lee Greenwood warmed up his crowd in southeast Virginia. Vice President Joe Biden was westward bound for Colorado and Nevada.

Obama appears to have 237 of the 270 electoral votes needed for victory comfortably in hand, and Romney is confident of 191. That leaves 110 electoral votes up for grabs in nine battleground states: Florida (29), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6) and New Hampshire (4).

The candidates debated Tuesday night as if their political lives depended on it — because they do. It was a re-energized Obama who showed up at Hofstra University, lifting the spirits of Democrats who felt let down by the president's limp performance in the candidates' first encounter two weeks ago.

But Romney knew what was coming and didn't give an inch, pressing his case even when the arguments deteriorated into did-not, did-too rejoinders that couldn't have done much to clarify the choice for undecided voters.

The debate was the third installment in what amounts to a four-week-long reality TV series for Campaign 2012. Romney was the clear victor in the series debut, Biden aggressively counterpunched in the next-up vice presidential debate, and the latest faceoff featured two competitors determined to give no quarter.

It was a pushy, interruption-filled encounter filled with charges and countercharges that the other guy wasn't telling the truth. The two candidates were both verbally and physically at odds in the town hall-style format, at one point circling each other on center stage like boxers in a prize fight.

"I thought it was a real moment," Biden told NBC's "Today" show in a taped interview aired today. "When they were kind of circling each other, it was like, 'Hey, come on man, let's level with each other here.'"

One of the debate's tensest moments came when Romney suggested Obama's administration may have misled the public over what caused the attack at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last month that killed four Americans. The issue is sure to continue to be debated next week at the third and closing debate, focused on foreign policy and scheduled for Monday at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.

"As the facts come out about the Benghazi attack we learn more troubling facts by the day," Ryan told "This Morning" on CBS. "So that's why need to get to the bottom of this to get answers so that we can prevent something like this from ever happening again."

Romney, brimming with confidence, distilled the essence of his campaign message early in Tuesday's 90-minute debate and repeated it often.

"I know what it takes to get this economy going," he said over and over. And this: "We can do better." And this: "We don't have to settle for what we're going through."

Obama, with both the benefit and the burden of a record to run on, had a more nuanced message.

"The commitments I've made, I've kept," he said. "And those that I haven't been able to keep, it's not for lack of trying and we're going to get it done in a second term."

Obama also was relentless in dismissing the merits of Romney's policies and rejecting his characterizations of the president's record.

"Gov. Romney doesn't have a five-point plan," the president argued. "He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules."

The candidates were in each other's faces — sometimes literally — before an audience of 82 uncommitted voters from New York. It's a state that's already a sure bet for Obama, but the voters there stood as proxy for millions of Americans across the nation still settling on a candidate.

"They spent a lot of time cutting down the other person," said 22-year-old Joe Blizzard, who watched with a crowd of 500 students at the University of Cincinnati. "As someone who is undecided, it was a little disappointing."

Fellow student Karim Aladmi, 21, was more forgiving. "It goes without saying that the knives were out," he said. "I thought Obama had a strong performance, but Romney made him work for it. I was actually impressed by both sides."

With just 20 days left until the election, polls show an extremely tight race nationally. While the Republican has made clear gains in recent days, the president leads in several polls of Wisconsin and Ohio. No Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio.

As the debates unfold, early voting is already under way in many states, and the push to bank as many early ballots as possible is in overdrive.

Democrats cheered Tuesday when the Supreme Court cleared the way for Ohio voters to cast ballots on the three days before Election Day, rejecting a request by the state's Republican elections chief and attorney general to get involved in a rancorous battle over early voting. Obama's campaign and Ohio Democrats had sued state officials over changes in state law that took away the three days of voting for most people.

All the political maneuvering was little more than noise for more than 1.3 million Americans: They've already voted.

Pickler reported from Washington. AP writers Nancy Benac and Alicia Caldwell in Washington, James Fitzgerald and Steve Peoples in Hempstead, N.Y., Beth Fouhy in New York City and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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peanutgallery wrote:
Romney clearly defeated Obama last night, even though Obama had lots of help from Candy, "I'm in the tank for Obama", Crowley. Her comments about the Benghazi raid and the Presidents' comments were untrue. Clearly wrong.. Anyone can watch the video of Obama's comments. Barrack has been a complete failure. On jobs, the economy, foreign affairs. You name it, he's blown it. Time for us to move along with someone who knows what he's doing. Obama and the left can paint Romney as a terrible person, but the facts say otherwise. To deny it is simply to keep your head under the sand
on October 17,2012 | 09:19AM
honolulugal wrote:
>>Her comments about the Benghazi raid and the Presidents' comments were untrue. Clearly wrong.. Anyone can watch the video of Obama's comments<< Apparently you didn't. I don't really like commenting on poliitics posts,, but I couldn't let your clear untruth stand. Romney said that the President didn't utter those words "acts of terror", the day after at the Rose Garden, but he did. Case closed.
on October 17,2012 | 09:32AM
serious wrote:
honolulugal, you are correct. I also didn't like the narrator closing off Romney but she let the President ramble on way past his time. But, this was all held in Hempstead NY---100% Democratic, so the "uncommitted"--just like Hawaii--bunch of BS. They never saw a D they didn't like!!
on October 17,2012 | 09:51AM
honolulugal wrote:
Thanks, serious, sir or mam, on that. Regarding the undecideds, today's political cartoon in the SA reflects what I was thinking last night as I watched the interview with the undecided focus group members. I'm very sure there are undecideds that are thoughtful and informed, but the ones from last night just appalled me. Those kind of undecideds seemed like they never picked up a newspaper or watched news programs or anything related to this election period. I think the only thing they may have watched were the debates--maybe--it might have been only the one they wers corralled to watch. Anyhow, I'm fully mentally prepared for Romney being elected if it happens that way. So then it will be up to his supporters to be in the hot seat when things don't turn out the way they exactly thought it would.
on October 17,2012 | 11:20AM
honolulugal wrote:
P.S. Just want to add one more thing. I think that debates are the worst way for folks to get all the info they need to make intellingent choices about issues from the candidates. I can fully understand the debaters interrupting and going overtime, because how in the world can they get their points accross with only two minutes to express them. It's crazy.
on October 17,2012 | 11:24AM
serious wrote:
honolulugal, I agree with you that two minutes is tough. But like a lot of things, if that is what you agree with then stick with it. I have seen Biden on C-Span--go on for hours and like Obama after he is finished, I wonder what he said. I love women, my mother was one and I am happy in marriage with one, but for the debates--I am sorry, they need someone with guts--ba--s to keep thing even. Look at Biden interrupting Ryan everytime, look at Romney being told his time was up and Obama just rambled on!!!! Now he is the President--we toast to the OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, not to the president---and I think our troops would agree!!!
on October 17,2012 | 12:23PM
honolulugal wrote:
Well, serious, if what you say that what one agrees with should be folllowed, then you'll have to ask yourself why Romney didn't follow what his people agreed that there will be no talking or asking questions between the debaters. And it was Romney that started it. Sorry to tell you, but Romney has a temperament issue which started at the first debate. That's where all that stuff you don't like started. Anyhow, all this talk is mainly useless. The only opinions that will count is the opinions cast on November 6th.
on October 17,2012 | 02:01PM
Pacej001 wrote:
On the larger point, did Obama and his administration stick with the YouTube movie as motivation for the attack story for nearly two weeks while, early on, a day or two later, there was ample intelligence to the contrary, that the attack was by an Al Qaeda related group. After the President's Rose Garden statement you refer to, his UN ambassador stated, in five separate national TV appearances, that the Video was the cause of the attack. Obama himself supported that story several times. Crowley was flat out wrong, Romney awkwardly correct, and Obama distorted the truth.
on October 17,2012 | 11:28AM
honolulugal wrote:
That may be the larger point but it doesn't invalidate what occurred d at the debate in that Romeny was wrong when he said that the President didn't use the word "acts of terror" at the Rose Garden speech.
on October 17,2012 | 12:29PM
DAGR81 wrote:
You should not comment on "politics posts". Obama never uttered those words "acts of terror" the day after at the Rose Garden in explaining the attack of 9/11/12. Case now closed.
on October 17,2012 | 03:26PM
honolulugal wrote:
He did. I could say something like don't embarass yourself. But I won't.
on October 17,2012 | 03:41PM
honolulugal wrote:
Wait a minute. That's not what I said. I only said that he used the words "acts of terrow" in the Rose Garden speech. I never expanded it any further the way you just did. Romney said that he never used those words in the speech.
on October 17,2012 | 03:59PM
DAGR81 wrote:
You are such a petty person
on October 17,2012 | 07:52PM
KamaainaUH wrote:
Romney clearly won the debate? What were you watching? The majority of America disagrees with you. Romney sounded like a whining crybaby.
on October 17,2012 | 04:11PM
DAGR81 wrote:
Obama may be great at many things, but as President of this great country, he is a loser...pure and simple. He needs to be replaced by someone capable of leading this country.
on October 17,2012 | 09:56AM
Obama unfortunately is a weak president. During Obama's 1st year in office, Iran seek for help during their massive protest to end the Ayatollah's regime so that a democratic Iran can evolve. Mr. Obama and his administration refuse to assists, citing it as Iran internal issue, yet. Obama sees Iran to be a world wide security risk for other nation and America continuously. Obama missed the chance to turn things around for Iran during his 1st year. Where is Obama's guts and leadership?
on October 17,2012 | 12:46PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Are you saying that Obama should have invaded Iran? If so, that would have been the most stupid move ever. Are you saying the U.S. should have armed the protestors? If so, another stupid move. Obama played it smart not getting involved.
on October 17,2012 | 01:37PM
silvangold wrote:
a debate is just that: a debate. I am voting for Obama anyway. MiR comes up ONE TIME with a FEW good lines and y'all wanna vote for him?? I'm voting for Obama, Hirono (the lesser of the 2 evils), Ben and Tom Berg (I like his attitude), and Hanabusa. so what......you may be voting for just the opposite. so we all vote so we can all grumble. you don't vote, you got no room to grumble. Hell, I just want to live out my life happy. and IMO I am going to, no matter who gets into office!
on October 17,2012 | 02:34PM
DAGR81 wrote:
Your may not be able to live out your life happy if obama is elected for another four years...and think about the next generation and what they will have to deal with if obama contilnues on with his present agenda. Red and Blue forever,
on October 17,2012 | 03:32PM
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