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WESTERVILLE, Ohio - Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney rallied a crowd here in a high school gym today, with help from Columbus native golfing legend Jack Nicklaus.
The Romney campaign's day in swing-state Ohio started off with the release of a new poll from Quinnipiac University/ CBS News/New York Times showing him trailing President Obama in Ohio by 53-43 percent.
And Mr. Romney is competing for the public's and the media's attention today with President Obama who is stumping in Ohio college towns Bowling Green and Kent.
Mr. Nicklaus said his values of hard work and self-reliance are the same as those of Mr. Romney. He recited statistics of job losses, lowered family wages, and higher gas prices that he blamed on the policies of President Obama, whose tenure he likened to an errant golf shot.
"The worst thing you can do on a golf course is to dwell on a bad shot. We are too late to change recent history but we can write a better future for ourselves, for our children, and for their children," said Mr. Nicklaus, 72.
He described his ownership of a small business that he said he built over 40 years, following the example of his pharmacist father, but said that he has had to lay off half of his employees, and cut all of their wages.
"Like many of you here today and many across this state and country the economy of the Obama administration has taken its toll on us," Mr. Nicklaus said.
Mr. Nicklaus was introduced in the filled Westerville High School gym in this affluent Columbus suburb by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) who described him as a philanthropist who has benefited 75 central Ohio charities.
The Romney campaign today began a third straight day of candidate appearances in Ohio, and is scheduled to follow up with a rally in the Cleveland area and ending at Toledo's SeaGate Convention Centre.
Mr. Romney was also introduced by Gov. John Kasich, who lives in Westerville.
"Being governor and trying to come out of a mess is tough, but what I really need to really fix this state is I need Mitt Romney as president of the United States," Mr. Kasich said.
In his own remarks, Mr. Romney lambasted the growing national debt, which he said has increased from $10 billion to more than $16 billion under President Obama and is likely to reach $20 billion if he gets another four years.
"It is crushing. We're on the road to Europe, we're on the road to Greece, I will get us off that road," Mr. Romney said.
He addressed his plans for tax reform by making the tax system simpler and reducing the rates.
"By the way, don't be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I'm also going to lower deductions and exemptions," Mr. Romney said. President Obama has portrayed Mr. Romney's tax cut proposal as promising a windfall for the wealthy and a higher tax burden for the middle class.
President Obama is over the magic 50 percent mark and tops former Massachusetts Gov. Romney among likely voters by 9 to 12 percentage points in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the new poll.
In Ohio, it shows Mr.Obama leading Mr. Romney 53-43 percent.
Quinnipiac says voters see President Obama as better than Governor Romney to handle the economy, health care, Medicare, national security, an international crisis and immigration. Romney ties or inches ahead of the president on handling the budget deficit.
“Gov. Mitt Romney had a bad week in the media and it shows in these key swing states,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “The furor over his 47 percent remark almost certainly is a major factor in the roughly double-digit leads President Barack Obama has in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The debates may be Romney’s best chance to reverse the trend in his favor.”
“The president’s strength results from the fact that for the first time in the entire campaign, he is seen as better able to fix the economy than is Romney, the issue that has been the Republican’s calling card since the general election campaign began. And the economy remains the overwhelming choice as the most important issue to voters’ presidential choice.”
In Ohio, Mr. Obama leads 60–35 percent among Ohio women likely voters, while men support Mr. Romney 52–44 percent. White voters back Mr. Romney by a narrow 49–46 percent, while 98 percent of black voters back the president. Independent voters are split with 47 percent for Mr. Romney and 46 percent for Mr. Obama.
In Ohio’s U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown leads State Treasurer Josh Mandel, the Republican challenger, 50–40 percent.
And Ohio voters approve 48–35 percent of the job Gov. Kasich is doing.
“Mitt Romney may not be doing well in Ohio, but his fellow Republican, Gov. John Kasich, seems to have resurrected his political standing in the Buckeye State,” Mr. Brown said. “Kasich finds himself with a mid-teens double digit positive approval margin.”
Kevin Madden, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said the Quinnipiac poll oversampled Democrats and that the race is actually close.
"Public opinion is not an event, it's a process. Our focus right now is to continue doing everything we need to do to continue to stay in the position to win," he said.
He said Mr. Romney is looking forward to the debates that start Oct. 3.
"His stategy is to talk directly to the American public about the issues that they care about. In this particular election it's the state of the economy," he said, refusing to predict a victor. "What we do know about President Obama is he's one of the greatest political performers of all time. We know that the stakes are pretty high and the President has a lot of advantages."
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