2012 ELECTION

Election 2012: Obama on marathon tour, Romney runs in Ohio

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A scratchy-voiced President Barack Obama powered through a marathon drive to get his supporters to vote Thursday and planned to set an example by becoming the first president to cast his own ballot ahead of time. Republican Mitt Romney spent one of the precious 12 days before Election Day entirely focused on the Rust Belt battleground of Ohio.

With a new Associated Press-GfK poll showing Romney has erased Obama's 16-point advantage among women, the president tried to keep a GOP abortion controversy alive. Obama repeatedly made a veiled reference to Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's comment that pregnancies resulting from rape are "something God intended."

"We've seen again this week, I don't think any male politicians should be making health care decisions for women," Obama said. His campaign also has been intensifying its criticism of Romney for refusing to pull his support for Mourdock, even though the Republican presidential nominee said he disagrees with Mourdock's comment.

Romney tried to avoid the subject. While picking up breakfast at a downtown Cincinnati diner on Thursday, Romney refused to answer repeated questions from reporters standing nearby about Mourdock's comment and whether he would call for Mourdock to take down a TV ad Romney filmed for him earlier this week.

At a rally later at the Jet Machine manufacturing company, Romney didn't mention anything about abortion but spoke repeatedly about the choices facing American families. He said seniors on Medicare would struggle to find doctors if Obama is re-elected, daughters would face crushing college loan debt and parents would lose choices about where to educate their children.

"This election is not about me. It's not about the Republican Party," Romney told a crowd estimated at 3,000. "It's about America. And it's about your family."

Romney's campaign reached out to women by sending Ann Romney on daytime's "Rachael Ray" show, where she prepared her meatloaf cakes recipe and took cameras along on a trip to Costco to shop in bulk for family gatherings. Mrs. Romney said that, with 30 mouths to feed, her family always eats buffet-style and that "Mitt is often at the front of the line."

Romney was on a daylong swing through three Ohio towns, sharpening his focus on a state critical to his hopes of winning the White House. The Republican's advisers say their internal data has him tied to win the state's 18 Electoral College votes, but public polling has shown Obama with a slim lead.

Obama, in the midst of a four-state blitz on Thursday, also was scheduled to finish his day in Ohio. Shortly after Romney concludes his evening remarks in Defiance, the president was set to appear 150 miles to the east in Cleveland.

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