* White House rivals take message to battleground states
* Reuters/Ipsos poll says Obama increased lead over Romney
* Vast majority of campaign ads have negative slant
DES MOINES/DENVER, Aug 8 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama
and his Republican rival Mitt Romney traded barbs over the
economy and women's rights on Wednesday, each seeking an edge in
critical states that could tip the result of the Nov. 6
Romney, who told supporters in drought-ravaged Iowa that
their state felt like a "second home," accused the Democratic
president of mismanaging the economy and unraveling rules that
require welfare recipients to get jobs.
A second term for Obama would lead to "chronic high levels
of unemployment as far as the eye can see," the former
Massachusetts governor told an enthusiastic crowd at Des Moines'
Central High School.
"It's tough to be middle class in America today," he said.
Obama, meanwhile, began a two-day campaign swing in Colorado
with a pitch to women voters, another key constituency in what
is likely to be a close election that will hinge on politically
divided states such as Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Florida and
He told a mainly female audience in Denver that Romney and
his fellow Republicans wanted to limit access to birth control
and would permit insurance companies to deny women coverage
because of pre-existing conditions "like breast cancer or
"When it comes to a women's right to make her own healthcare
choices, they want to take us back to the policies more suited
to the 1950s than the 21st century," Obama said. "Colorado,
you've got to make sure it does not happen."
The president, who has been polling well ahead of Romney
among women, referred to his mother's struggle with cancer and
his hopes for his daughters in a speech laced with personal
Obama was introduced at the event by Sandra Fluke, the
Georgetown University law school graduate whom conservative
talk-show host Rush Limbaugh called a "slut" earlier this year
for her outspoken support of Obama's contraception coverage
Fluke's emergence on the campaign trail signaled that
Obama's team - which has sought to cast Romney as an
out-of-touch protector of the wealthy who is indifferent to the
middle class - will seek to make the most of Obama's advantage
among women voters, which several polls have estimated to be in
Obama praised Fluke as a "tough and poised young lady,"
adding that she "was brave to stand up for herself, and an
eloquent advocate for women's health."
A SLIGHT EDGE FOR OBAMA
As the Obama and Romney campaigns traded blows, several new
polls indicated that the president has a slight lead in the race
for the White House, three months before election day.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Obama's lead over Romney among
registered voters at 49 percent to 42 percent, up slightly from
the 6-point advantage the president held a month earlier over
the former Massachusetts governor.
Separately, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 49
percent of Americans view Romney unfavorably, compared with 43
percent of voters who gave Obama unfavorable marks.
And the latest poll from Quinnipiac University, CBS and the
New York Times showed Obama ahead of Romney in Virginia and
Wisconsin but trailing the Republican contender in Colorado.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said there would
be a tough fight in key states and her team was tailoring the
president's travel accordingly.
"We know the race is going to be close," she told reporters
aboard Air Force One. "We are not leaving any stone unturned, we
are not taking any votes for granted."
In an advertising blitz focused on a dozen pivotal states,
Obama and his fellow Democrats have hammered Romney's record as
a private equity executive at Bain Capital, accusing him of
plundering companies and shipping jobs overseas.
Romney has centered his race on the notion that he would be
better than Obama at dealing with the economy - the dominant
issue for voters, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll.
His campaign spent $30.8 million on broadcast, cable and
radio ads in July, compared to $50.3 million by the Obama camp,
according to SMG Delta, which tracks political ad spending.
Much of the advertising firepower is held by independent
political action committees, or "Super PACs," that can raise and
spend unlimited funds as long as they don't coordinate with
Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney Super PAC, was absent
from the airwaves for much of the summer but is back on
television in 11 states with a $7.2 million ad buy that
highlights Romney's success at turning around the 2002 Salt Lake
City Winter Olympics' budget deficit.
The pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA has been running
attack ads since early May and is planning to invest $20 million
in its latest blitz.
The group has run six ads painting Romney as a cruel
corporate raider, five of which feature workers laid off by
companies bought out by Bain Capital.
Last week, Ken Goldstein of the ad buy-tracking firm Kantar
Media said that of the $246.2 million spent on campaign ads in
this election cycle, only 28 percent went toward positive spots,
while 72 percent paid for negative ones. Most have focused on
nine states: Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North
Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida.
Both candidates will focus their campaigning on "swing"
states next week.
Romney is doing a bus tour in Virginia, North Carolina,
Florida and Ohio starting on Saturday, and Obama will travel to
Iowa for a three-day bus tour starting on Monday.
- Politics & Government
- Mitt Romney