President Barack Obama told crowds at back-to-back rallies across the United States yesterday that the contest for the White House in the end came down to trust.
"Trust matters. One thing I think you have seen, Colorado, over the last four years, is that I mean what I say, " he declared with an already hoarse voice here in Denver last night. In shirt sleeves on a chilled afternoon, he pledged: "Every day I sit the Oval Office, I am fighting for your families."
The message, part of an effort to paint Mitt Romney as an opportunist who has sped from the right to the centre in the closing weeks of the race, was being carried by President Obama on a 48-hour campaigning blitz that just yesterday saw him touching down in Iowa first, Denver, Colorado, and thereafter California and Nevada. He will be in Tampa, Florida, in the wee hours today after travelling 5,300 miles in one day.
The crushing schedule – a top aide wondered out loud to The Independent about the likely odour on Air Force One when it returns to Washington tonight since the single shower on board is for the President of the United States only – reflects the sense of fright over the lead taken by Mr Romney in some national polls. The RealClearPolitics national average of polls last night put the former Governor of Massachusetts ahead by 48 per cent to 47.1 per cent.
"We are pulling an all-nighter, no sleep, quite a lot of coffee," he told the 16,000-strong crowd here. Mr Romney, he alleged, wants voters to forget the economic policies that led to the Great Recession and his own past positions. "He is hoping you will come down with a severe case of Romnesia just before you cast your ballot." Symptoms could include "headaches, the eyes getting blurry, but don't worry – Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions!"
Last night was the first time that Mr Obama was to travel overnight on Air Force One on a domestic trip since he became President. For incumbents trying to keep their jobs it is far from unusual, however. He dipped into Los Angeles last night to tape a show with the popular late-night talk star Jay Leno.
The reinventing of Mr Romney, Obama aides say, first came into focus during the first debate in Denver, for example on his taxation plans, and was on display again earlier this week in the final debate when he declared himself in accord with many of Mr Obama's specific policy positions on everything from killing Osama bin Laden to keeping troops out of Syria and making armed intervention in Iran an absolute last resort.
The attacks about trust drew a quick riposte from the Romney team. "President Obama proved once again today that his campaign is getting smaller and smaller as election day approaches," spokesman Ryan Williams said. "Another four years of President Obama's policies will mean lower incomes, higher taxes, and more debt."
While the poll peaks are giving the Romney camp new confidence, strategists with President Obama privately underscore what they say is far more important – that polling in all the nine key battleground states shows either a tie or a small lead for the President. In Ohio, he remains five points ahead, according to a CNN poll last night.
Mr Romney will himself spend the next two days ricocheting between Ohio, with a rally in Cincinnati early this morning, and Iowa, another Midwestern state on a knife edge. Mr Obama was due to stop in Chicago to vote early tonight before returning finally to the White House.