Seminole (Florida): Republican challenger Mitt Romney faulted President Barack Obama for the country's weak jobs outlook and looming defence cuts as he tried to blunt any momentum the incumbent picked up from the festive, well-choreographed Democratic National Convention.

Obama and Romney clawed for advantage yesterday in a post-convention push through some of the most closely contested states, Obama on a Florida bus tour, Romney rallying in Virginia, opening the homestretch to the November 6 election.

Each contender was seeking to frame the campaign on their own terms. Romney was concentrating on the economy, while Obama sought to play to his strengths by portraying himself as a champion of the middle class.

Eager to change the subject after a dismal jobs report, Obama tried to rekindle some of the enthusiasm of his 2008 campaign with a bus tour through the pivotal state of Florida, urging supporters not to "buy into the cynicism that somehow the change we fought for isn't possible."

Obama, speaking to a crowd of 11,000 at the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg College, gave Floridians a populist plea not to "turn away now."

"If you give up the idea that your voice can make a difference," Obama said, "then other folks are going to fill the void: the lobbyists, the special interests, the people who are writing $10 million checks, the folks who are trying to keep people from voting" and more.

Campaigning in a state where the 8.8 per cent jobless rate tops the national average, the president made no mention of Friday's government report showing a weak employment outlook for the nation. But he urged people to help him "finish what we started," and he put creating more jobs at the top of his to-do list.

Romney, a multimillionaire businessman and former Massachusetts governor, is casting Obama as an inept steward of the nation's post-recession recovery, saying the president's policies have inhibited job growth.

Obama is countering by repeatedly decrying Romney's economic remedies such as tax cuts and deregulation as failed throwbacks to President George W Bush's administration that would further endanger the economy.



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