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Romney, Obama trade jabs as Dem convention looms

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Republican Mitt Romney cast President Barack Obama as a failed coach of a struggling team as he sought to capitalize on momentum coming out of his party's convention. Obama dismissed the GOP gathering as an event suited to the era of black-and-white TV and promised to outline "a better path forward" at the upcoming Democratic convention where he'll be nominated for a second term.

The two rivals campaigned Saturday across several battleground states expected to decide the outcome of the closely fought presidential contest. Obama was in Iowa and Colorado, part of a three-day tour that will take him to his convention opening Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C.

Romney spoke at rallies in Ohio and Florida before flying to his vacation home in New Hampshire for some time off. He and his wife, Ann, attended church services Sunday morning at the chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Wolfeboro, N.H.

Campaign officials said Romney would spend much of the Democrats' convention week preparing for the presidential debates.

At rallies in Cincinnati and Jacksonville, Fla., Romney channeled many voters' interest in the first weekend of the college football season.

"I don't like the way the way the game is going under this president," Romney said, pointing to the high jobless rate and approximately 23 million people who are unemployed or working part-time. "If there's a coach whose record is 0 and 23 million, you get rid of him and get someone new."

The former Massachusetts governor reiterated his pledge to create 12 million new jobs and make the U.S. energy independent in eight years but did not offer specifics on how he would achieve those goals.

Obama seized on the dearth of policy details outlined by Romney and other Republicans at their convention in Tampa, Fla.

"There was a lot of talk about hard truths and bold choices, but no one actually told you what they were," Obama said in Urbandale, Iowa, warning a Romney administration would offer "retreads of the same old policies that have been sticking it to the middle class for years."

David Axelrod, Obama's senior campaign adviser, said the president would present a clear agenda for strengthening middle class economic security during his acceptance speech in Charlotte.

"You don't hear those kinds of things from the Republican Party," Axelrod said on Fox News Sunday. "Their platform was locked up in the same vault as Mitt Romney's tax returns. They simply don't want to talk about their ideas, because their ideas are not ideas about the future."

Democrats have criticized Romney for making no mention in his convention speech of the war in Afghanistan or of the thousands of troops fighting there. Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom on Sunday defended that decision, saying the Republican candidate addressed the Afghan war in a speech last week to the American Legion.

"But Gov. Romney's convention speech was an opportunity for him to introduce himself to millions of voters who were seeing him for the first time," Fehrnstrom said on CNN's "State of the Union." ''In that speech, he accomplished what he set (out) to do, which is to talk about his better vision for America, with more jobs and increasing wages. He talked about the failures of the Obama presidency over the last four years."

Obama was campaigning Sunday in Colorado, where he planned to speak to college students in Boulder.

The president is pushing voters in states like Iowa and Colorado to take advantage of early voting rules. Early voting in Iowa opens on Sept. 27, weeks before the November 6 general election.

Obama's schedule for Monday includes an appearance in Toledo, Ohio — yet another battleground state — before a trip to Louisiana to inspect damage from Hurricane Isaac.

Romney visited Louisiana on Friday.

Viewership was down markedly for the GOP convention this year. According to The Nielsen Co., some 30 million viewers tuned in Thursday night when Romney gave his acceptance speech, compared to some 40 million who watched Arizona Sen. John McCain accept the Republican nomination in 2008.

Democrats were eager to recapture the spotlight at their own gathering. But the convention's location served as an unwelcome reminder to the Democrats of an economy so weak that it threatens Obama's chances for re-election.

The president carried North Carolina in 2008, but the state's unemployment rate is pegged at 9.6 percent, higher than the nation's 8.3 percent and tied with next-door South Carolina for fifth from the bottom.

The Democrats' convention at the Time Warner Cable arena will feature evening speeches Tuesday by first lady Michelle Obama and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the keynote speaker.

The president will be nominated for a new term on Wednesday, when former President Bill Clinton also will speak.

Obama's prime-time acceptance speech, to be delivered at the outdoor Bank of America Stadium, caps the convention on Thursday night. Aides predict a capacity crowd will hear the speech at the site, which can hold nearly 74,000. Vice President Joe Biden delivers his own acceptance speech the same evening.

Democrats are taking their turn in the convention spotlight just days after the Republicans met in Tampa to nominate Romney for the White House and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to be vice president.

Kasie Hunt reported from Jacksonville, Fla.

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