DAVENPORT, Iowa — President Barack Obama is confidently predicting speedy second-term agreement with Republicans to reduce federal deficits and overhaul immigration laws, commenting before setting out Wednesday on a 40-hour campaign marathon through battleground states that could decide whether he'll get the chance. Republican Mitt Romney looked to the Midwest for a breakthrough in a close race shadowed by a weak economy.
Romney declared, We're going to get this economy cooking again, addressing a boisterous crowd in Reno, Nev., before flying back eastward to tend to his prospects in Ohio and Iowa. Romney urged audience members to consider their personal circumstances, and he said the outcome of the Nov. 6 election will make a difference for the nation, will make a difference for the families of the nation and will make a difference for your family, individually and specifically.
With 13 days until Election Day, opinion polls depicted a close race nationally. Romney's campaign claims momentum as well as the lead in Florida and North Carolina, two battleground states with a combined 44 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. Obama's aides insist the president is ahead or tied in both of those states and in the other seven decisive battlegrounds.
Not even Obama, in an interview with radio host Tom Joyner, predicted that fellow Democrats would win control of the House from Republicans.
The parties are struggling uncertainly for control of the Senate. And for the second time, a hard-fought Senate campaign was jolted by a dispute over abortion, in this case a statement by Republican Richard Mourdock of Indiana that when a woman becomes pregnant by rape, that's something God intended and there should be no abortion allowed.
Romney said he disagreed with the remarks. However, unlike an earlier abortion-related controversy involving Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, Romney did not disavow his support for Mourdock, who is locked in a close race with Rep. Joe Donnelly, his Democratic opponent.
Air Force One touched down in Iowa, the first stop of a swing that included Colorado, California, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Florida, with a quick stop in Illinois to cast an early ballot, before he returns to the White House on this evening.
On his second stop of the long day, Obama spoke to about 16,000 people at Denver's City Park.
This may not be the last time you'll see me, Obama said. Colorado is considered one of the toughest of the battleground states.
The Electoral College map explained Romney's focus on Ohio as well as on Iowa. Together, they account for 24 electoral votes out of the 270 needed.
Barring a last-minute change — some Republicans said there is still time for a late play in Pennsylvania or Minnesota — Obama is ahead in states and the District of Columbia with 237 electoral votes. The same is true for Romney in states with 191 electoral votes.
That leaves North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada and Colorado and their 110 electoral votes up for grabs.
The president said he is absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain on the federal budget that he and Republicans futilely pursued in 2011, including $2.50 in spending cuts for every $1 in higher revenue, with steps to reduce the costs of health care programs.
Efforts to agree on a deal with House Speaker John Boehner more than a year ago fell apart when liberals resisted measures Obama has accepted, including a gradual increase in the age of eligibility for Medicare to 67 from 65, and conservatives balked at the speaker's willingness to include higher tax revenue in any agreement.
Nor did the president embrace the recommendations put together by the Bowles-Simpson Commission, a panel of outsiders that he appointed to recommend a solution to the nation's long-running budget deadlock.
As for immigration, the president said, Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.
It was a suggestion that Republicans will have to ease their opposition to measures giving illegal immigrants a path to permanent residence or citizenship if they lose the election.
Romney, in Reno, departed from previous campaign speeches and sought to personalize the choice voters face.
He ticked through several different hypothetical situations — a senior citizen struggling to pay for health care, a young family trying to educate their kids, an unemployed worker looking for a job — and insisted each would be better off under him.
How many here identify with stories like that in your own home? he asked, and hands shot up across the room.