Obama takes gloves off, mocks Romney as having an 'extreme makeover'
President Barack Obama said Republican challenger Mitt Romney is performing "an extreme makeover" of stances he took during the primaries on issues from tax cuts to health care in order to get votes in the general election.
At a rally before a mostly college-age audience at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, Obama said Romney is trying to distance himself from past positions because those ideas have been rejected by the majority of voters.
"After running for more than a year in which he called himself severely conservative, Mitt Romney is trying to convince you that he was severely kidding," Obama said. "These days, Mitt Romney is for whatever you're for."
With 29 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, Florida is the biggest prize among the states that have a recent history of voting for either major party candidate.
Florida is one of the swing states where polls released today showed Romney closing the gap with Obama for the support of likely voters following an Oct. 3 debate between the two. Obama held a 1-point advantage in Florida, 48 percent to 47 percent, in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College survey. He was ahead by 5 points in September.
Two days after playing down his plans to fight abortion rights, Romney met privately today with father and son evangelists Billy and Franklin Graham at the family's home in Montreat, North Carolina.
The visit was part of an effort by his campaign to reassure some in his party that the former Massachusetts governor would stand with them on fighting abortion rights and same-sex marriage, even as he works to moderate the tone of his message for swing voters. In an Oct. 9 interview with the Des Moines Register, Romney said he wouldn't pursue abortion-related legislation as president.
The visit to Billy Graham's mountaintop retreat is a standard stop for Republican presidential candidates eager to boost their support from evangelical voters. Romney's Mormon religion has been viewed with varying degrees of skepticism by evangelical Christians, some of whom consider it a non-Christian cult.
"Prayer is the most helpful thing you can do for me," Romney told the Grahams at the end of the meeting as reporters were ushered in. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a pastor and favorite of evangelicals, will join Romney at his rally tonight in Asheville, North Carolina.
Both Romney and Obama were campaigning as Vice President Joe Biden and Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, face off tonight in Danville, Kentucky in their only debate. Obama and Romney will square off two more times later this month.
Obama said at today's rally in Florida that his policies are "getting us out of this mess," referring to the economic crisis he inherited upon taking office in January, 2009.
He said he cut taxes for middle-class families, expanded health insurance coverage, rescued the U.S. auto industry and approved the operation that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. Noting that the national unemployment rate of 7.8 percent last month is the lowest since he became president, Obama said, "We have come too far to turn back now."
While in the Miami area, Obama also is scheduled to hold one of his final fundraisers before the Nov. 6 election, with 700 donors paying $500 per ticket. Actress Eva Longoria is the host for the event.
Today was Obama's 22nd visit to Florida since taking office and his 12th this year, according to his campaign. Obama has been urging his supporters in the state to take advantage of early voting that begins in Florida on Oct. 27.