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Obama calls GOP 'dead wrong' for saying US in decline

President Barack Obama offered an optimistic message on the campaign trail in Florida. He said America, diverse and talented, is still on top, and promised to reduce the deficit without harming the middle class. 

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"He gave them no confidence whatsoever that he has any plan to make America's economy start to create the jobs it ought to be creating," Romney said Friday, critiquing Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.

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Obama is countering by presenting himself as a champion of the middle class and by repeatedly decrying Romney's economic remedies as failed throwbacks that would further endanger the economy.

But Obama is also eager to turn the debate away from the economy and on to issues that favor Democrats. Obama repeatedly reminds audiences that Romney's running mate has proposed to overhaul Medicare, the government health program for older Americans, with a voucher-like system that could cost beneficiaries more out of their pocket.

Obama's team says the Medicare argument could help attract undecided voters approaching retirement age, more so than elderly voters whose political views are already set.

Obama's visit to Florida is his first since Romney and the GOP held their convention in Tampa last month. With 29 electoral votes, the state is a lynchpin in both candidates' strategies for winning the election.

Romney and Obama are deadlocked in Virginia, where the Democrat is strong in the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., and Romney does better in the south and rural areas.

Romney sees working-class white voters, who have at times voted for moderate Democrats such as Sen. Mark Warner, as ripe for picking. Polls suggest those voters prefer Romney over Obama. Romney's NASCAR visit was a nod to this potentially pivotal voting bloc in Virginia, as well as Ohio, Florida, Iowa and other battlegrounds.

Romney aides say the Republican can win support by going after Obama for looming cuts in the military that could be factors in Norfolk and Hampton Roads. At issue are threatened deep spending cuts that were designed to force Congress to negotiate a debt-reduction package. But Congress has not acted and the cuts are set to kick in in January. Obama has opposed the depth of the cuts but has said Republicans need to adopt a plan that includes increases in revenue.

Romney faces similar challenges of his own in northern Virginia, where his pledge to cut 10 percent of the federal workforce affects local jobs.

Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Belmont, Mass., and Matthew Daly in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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