2012 ELECTION

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

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Virginia also got attention from both campaigns on an unseasonably warm October day, with Obama drawing a massive crowd estimated at 15,000 to Richmond's Byrd Park while GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan spoke before a smaller group at the opposite end of the state in Appalachian coal country. Ryan told the audience of about 1,500 that winning a close race won't be enough for the GOP ticket.

"The worst thing that could happen is President Obama gets re-elected and we have more of the same with a debt crisis," Ryan said. "The second worst thing that could happen is we get elected by default, without a mandate."

The AP-GfK poll released Thursday shows the presidential race still a virtual dead heat nationally, with Romney favored by 47 percent of likely voters and Obama by 45 percent. That result is within the poll's 4.2-point margin of error.

Although national polls show the race is close, Romney is struggling to overtake Obama in the state-by-state march to racking up the 270 Electoral College votes needed for victory. Romney has far fewer paths to reaching that threshold than Obama, who starts with more states - and more Electoral College votes - in his win column. The race is centered on just nine states, where polls show competitive races: Ohio, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin.

The president's morning rally kicked off the second day of his 40-hour battleground state blitz. Shortly after 7 a.m. and less than five hours after ending his day in Las Vegas, Obama was at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop near downtown Tampa, and minutes later delivered the still warm doughnuts to a nearby firehouse. He said he wanted to come by early - noting he is not often out this early - to thank them for all they do.

Obama then spoke to about 8,500 people at a morning rally in Tampa, a swing area of battleground state Florida. With a full day of campaigning still ahead of him, Obama's voice was already hoarse. But he told the enthusiastic crowd he was "just going to keep on keeping on until every single person out there who needs to vote is going to go vote."

He noted to cheers that he was going to Chicago later Thursday to participate in early voting and that first lady Michelle Obama already mailed in her ballot. Obama campaign spokesman Jennifer Psaki said they hoped his example would send a message to others in early voting states that they should do so as well.

About 7.2 million people have already cast early ballots, either by mail or in person, according to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University. In all, about 35 percent of the electorate is expected to vote before Election Day, a small increase over 2008.

Obama's campaign also announced joint rallies Monday with Bill Clinton in Orlando, Fla., Youngstown, Ohio, and Prince William County, Va. The president also picked up an endorsement from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who supported Obama in 2008. Powell praised Obama's handling of the economic recovery, telling "CBS This Morning:" ''I think we've begun to come out of the dive and we're gaining altitude." Obama told his Virginia audience that he was "proud and humbled" to get Powell's support.

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