Five days before Election Day, the storm-driven lull in presidential campaigning is clearly over.
Both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney charged into battleground states on the eve of the last big government economic report before next week's election: Friday's unemployment report for October.
It should show whether previous month's jobless rate decline — to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent — was a fluke or part of an improving trend.
Any sign of continued economic strengthening could be a big boost to Obama. High joblessness has weighed on his re-election bid.
Likewise, the weak economy has been Romney's strongest card, driving his claim his business experience gives him the know-how to revive the economy and create jobs.
Three economic reports Thursday suggested consumers are regaining their economic footing, sending stocks sharply higher.
The Conference Board said consumer confidence soared to its highest level since early 2008. Payroll provider Automatic Data Processing said that businesses added a solid 158,000 jobs in October. And The Institute of Supply Management said manufacturing expanded for a second month.
After focusing the past three days on monster storm Sandy, Obama campaigned in Wisconsin. "When disaster strikes, we see America at its best," he told a rally in Green Bay. "There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm. Just fellow Americans."
He also planned stops in Colorado and Nevada and will spend the night in pivotal Ohio, where he'll be Friday morning when the jobs numbers come out. Presidents traditionally get a private peek at the numbers the night before.
Romney campaigned Thursday in Virginia, telling a Roanoke crowd, "This is a critical place for us. Turnout here makes an enormous difference."
Supporters chanted "five more days."
Chuckling, Romney said, "We're going to have to come up with a better slogan tomorrow — or a different one at least."
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Eds: With 5 days left until Election Day, here are insights into today's highlights in U.S. politics
- Politics & Government
- Mitt Romney
- President Barack Obama