WASHINGTON — A breeze of momentum on his side, President Barack Obama was trying to shore up support in a pivotal state Saturday while he and rival Mitt Romney argue over who can change the country's political culture and best protect the financial and health security of older Americans.
Obama was first traveling to Wisconsin on Saturday, which his campaign had considered safely in his column, for his first visit since February.
His campaign said he plans two appearances with Hank Aaron, one at a $250-a-person reception and the second a $25,000-per-person event with about 20 people.
Obama aides seem eager to fortify the Wisconsin hold in case Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, can erode some of the president's support as the candidates' first debate, on Oct. 3, fast approaches.
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Facing some second-guessing within his own party over his strategy, Romney planned to raise money in California in hopes of recovering his fundraising advantage. Last month, for the first time, Obama and the Democratic Party raised more than Romney and the Republican Party, $114 million to $111.6 million.
Romney has opened a new line of attack against Obama, saying the president has failed to deliver on his promise of change. Ryan, campaigning Saturday in Miami, reinforced that message by poking at Obama's recent comment that it's hard to change Washington from the inside without mobilizing public pressure on Congress from the outside.
Obama is hitting back by portraying Romney as an insider beholden to partisan and corporate interests. Vice President Joe Biden seconded his boss during a Saturday appearance before an audience of Teamsters kicking off an effort to canvass for votes in Manchester, N.H.
Biden said it was because of unions that the U.S. has a strong middle class, and he accused Romney and Ryan of having "a completely different value set, a completely different vision."
"They're doubling down on everything that caused the economic crisis in the first place," he said.
Obama entered the weekend with polls showing him in a near tie with Romney nationally. But the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist Poll shows the president with leads among likely voters of 8 percentage points in Iowa and 5 points each in Colorado and Wisconsin, some of the most competitive states. Polls published earlier this week pointed to leads for Obama in closely contested Virginia and Ohio.Early voting: Half of U.S. begins voting
In Wisconsin, public polls still show Obama with a lead, and his campaign recently began airing ads. Biden has visited the state twice this month. Ryan has held events back home three times, once with Romney along.
Obama won Wisconsin easily in 2008 but Ryan is popular. Some Republican pollsters detected a bump for Romney in the state shortly after Ryan was named his running mate. Wisconsin's 7.5 percent unemployment rate is below the national average, but the state's manufacturing industry has been hit hard in recent years.
Obama's campaign is focused on running up big margins in Milwaukee and Madison, both Democratic strongholds. Obama and Romney will be closely watching the Green Bay region, a swing area that could tip the balance in a close contest.
World leaders are gathering in New York, but Obama has no plans to meet privately with any of them.
He will make time, with his wife, Michelle, for "The View," a freewheeling TV talk show more likely to reach voters than Obama would with the diplomacy he is skipping at the United Nations.
He is leaving face-to-face meetings with counterparts at the U.N. to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to pick up more of those sessions herself.
Obama's itinerary on Monday and Tuesday is compressed so that he can get back to campaigning in some of the most contested states such as Ohio and Virginia.
Obama's address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, while avoiding any reference Romney, will be viewed in more of an election context by many observers. Those include the more than 130 heads of state and government who are keenly interested in who will be in the White House next year.
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