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'I care,' Romney declares, as he duels with Obama in Ohio (+video)

Both Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama campaigned in Ohio on Wednesday. With Obama gaining more and more of an edge in the polls, Romney tried to appeal to voters, telling them he cares about all Americans.

By Ben Feller and Steve PeoplesAssociated Press / September 26, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop at American Spring Wire, Wednesday in Bedford Heights, Ohio.

David Richard/AP

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Westerville, Ohio

Slipping in states that could sink his presidential bid, Republican Mitt Romney declared Wednesday that "I care about the people of America" and can do more than President Barack Obama to improve their lives. In an all-day Ohio duel, Obama scoffed that a challenger who calls half the nation "victims" was unlikely to be of much help.

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Romney's approach reflected what he is up against: a widening Obama lead in polls in key states such as Ohio, the backlash from a leaked video in which he disparages Obama supporters as government-dependent people who see themselves as victims, and a campaign imperative to make his policy plans more plain.

With under six weeks to go, and just one week before the first big debate, Obama's campaign reveled in the latest public polling — but tried to crush any sense of overconfidence. "If we need to pass out horse blinders to all of our staff, we will do that," said campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

The day's setting was Ohio, where Obama's momentum has seemed to be growing. It's also a state no Republican has won the White House without carrying.

Romney, eager to project confidence and brush aside suggestions that he was faltering, went after working-class voters outside Columbus and Cleveland before rolling to Toledo. Obama rallied college crowds at Bowling Green State University and Kent State University, reminding Ohioans their state allows them to start cast ballots next week. Early voting has already begun in more than two dozen other states.

For Romney, in his appearances and in a new TV ad in which he appeals straight to the camera, it was time for plain talk to contrast himself with Obama, and to mince no words about his expectations.

"There are so many people in our country who are hurting right now. I want to help them. I know what it takes," Romney told the crowd in Westerville. "I care about the people of America, and the difference between me and Barack Obama is I know what to do."

That message so late in the campaign — a presidential nominee declaring his concern for all the people of the country — was part of his widening effort to rebound from his caught-on-video comments at a fundraiser.

In those comments, made last May but only recently revealed, Romney said "47 percent of the people" pay no federal income tax, will vote for Obama no matter what, see themselves as victims, think the government must care for them and do not "take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

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