Fierce finish: Romney, Obama sharpen closing lines

PATASKALA, Ohio (AP) — Down to a fierce

finish, President Barack Obama accused Mitt Romney of scaring voters

with lies on

Friday, while the Republican challenger warned grimly of political

paralysis and another recession if Obama reclaims the White

House. Heading into the final weekend, the race's last big report

on the economy showed hiring picking up but millions still

out of work.

"Four more days!" Romney supporters bellowed

at his rally in Wisconsin. "Four more years!" Obama backers shouted as

the president

campaigned in Ohio.

With Ohio at the center of it all, the candidates sharpened their closing lines, both clutching to the mainstream middle while

lashing out at one another. Virtually all of the nine homestretch battleground states were getting personal attention from

the contenders or top members of their teams, and Romney was pressing hard to add Pennsylvania to the last-minute mix.

Urgency could be felt all across the

campaign, from the big and boisterous crowds to the running count that

roughly 24 million

people already have voted. Outside the White House, workers were

setting the foundation for the inaugural viewing stand for

Jan. 20. Lawyers from both camps girded for a fight should the

election end up too close to call.

Obama, for the first time, personally assailed Romney over ads suggesting that automakers General Motors and Chrysler are

adding jobs in China at the expense of auto-industry dependent Ohio. Both companies have called the ads untrue. The matter

is sensitive in Ohio, perhaps the linchpin state of the election.

"I know we're close to an election, but this

isn't a game," Obama said from Hilliard, Ohio, a heavily Republican

suburb of

the capital city of Columbus. "These are people's jobs. These are

people's lives. ... You don't scare hardworking Americans

just to scare up some votes."

For once, the intensely scrutinized monthly

jobs report seemed overshadowed by the pace of the presidential race. It

was unlikely

to affect the outcome.

Employers added a better-than-expected

171,000 jobs in October, underscoring that the economy is improving. But

the rate is

still short of what will be needed to seriously shrink

unemployment. The jobless rate ticked up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent

— mainly because more people jumped back into the search for work.

No issue matters more to voters than the economy, the centerpiece of a Romney message called the closing case of his campaign.

He said an Obama presidency would mean more broken relations with Congress, showdowns over government shutdowns, a chilling

effect on the economy and perhaps "another recession."

"He has never led, never worked across the aisle, never truly understood how jobs are created in the economy," said Romney,

a former private equity firm executive, in a campaign stop in Wisconsin.

Later in Ohio, he declared: "I will not represent one party. I will represent one nation."

Democrats sought to kick the legs out of Romney's late-campaign theme of bipartisanship.

"Mitt Romney's fantasy that Senate Democrats will work with him to pass his 'severely conservative' agenda is laughable,"

said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Obama claimed he loved working with Republicans — when they agreed with him. His tone was scrappy.

"I don't get tired," he said in the longest days of the campaign. When Romney's name drew boos, Obama blurted out: "Vote!

Voting is the best revenge."

While the politics intensified, real-life misery played out in the Northeast.

The death toll and anger kept climbing in the aftermath of the massive storm Sandy. Millions were without power, and many

drivers could find no gasoline.

Obama noted at the top of his campaign

speeches that he was still commanding the federal storm response. He

also managed to

tie it to the theme of his political bid. "We rise or fall as one

nation and as one people," he said, before launching directly

to the economic recovery under his watch.

Polling shows the race remains a legitimate toss-up heading into the final days. But Romney still has the tougher path to

victory because he must win more of the nine most-contested states to reach 270 electoral votes: Ohio, Florida, Virginia,

North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire.

The dash for cash continued to the end. A

fundraising email under Romney's name asked for money to expand

operations into

other states and "redefine the landscape of this election." An

Obama fundraising pitch said final decisions were being made

Saturday on where to direct the last campaign money. "It's not too

late," it said.

Romney was making a late, concerted push into Pennsylvania, drawing jeers from Obama aides who called it desperation. Obama

won the state comfortably in 2008. Romney appeared intent on another path to the presidency should he lose Ohio.

His foray into Pennsylvania is not folly.

Unlike states that emphasize early voting, Pennsylvania will see most

votes cast

on Election Day. The state has not been saturated with political

advertising, giving Romney and his supporting groups — still

flush with cash — an opportunity to sway last-minute voters with a

barrage of commercials. Obama is countering by buying commercial

time in the state as well and is sending former President Bill

Clinton into the state to campaign.

The candidates' wives and running mates fanned out to the South, Midwest and West to cover more ground.

"Here's what it comes down to: We can't afford to wait four more years for real change to get us on the right track," said

the Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, rallying for votes in Montrose, Colo. "We only need to wait four more


Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden drew roaring support in Beloit, Wis., in a middle school near Ryan's hometown.

Obama reached beyond the big cities of Ohio before heading back to the White House. Romney was headed into the weekend with

a kickoff event for the finish, joining up with his running mate and their wives.

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