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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Renee Montagne is talking with voters in Colorado this morning for our series First and Main.
It is hard to believe but we are finally nearing the end of a presidential campaign that in many ways started back in January 2009.
INSKEEP: Iowa begins early voting today. Other states begin soon, and the presidential candidates are preparing for a final expensive and possibly brutal final act.
GREENE: Yesterday, both Mitt Romney and President Obama almost overlapped in one of the most vital states of all. They were along the shores of Lake Erie, carrying on their debate in Ohio.
INSKEEP: We're going to hear from both candidates this morning, starting with the president. Here's NPR's Ari Shapiro.
ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Election Day may be more than a month away. But here in Ohio, people can go to the polls much sooner than that.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Starting on October 2nd, which is just six days from now, you get to start voting.
OBAMA: You get to have your say.
SHAPIRO: Early voting in Ohio begins Tuesday. That helps explain why both campaigns are pouring so much love into the state right now.
At Bowling Green State University, people booed descriptions of Mitt Romney's policies and every time the president interrupted...
OBAMA: Don't boo, vote. Vote.
SHAPIRO: Mr. Obama repeatedly mentioned a video from a fundraiser where Romney was secretly taped dismissing 47 percent of voters who he said have a sense of entitlement.
OBAMA: I don't believe we can get very far with leaders who write off half the nation as a bunch of victims who never take responsibility for their own lives.
SHAPIRO: The president seemed relaxed, with shirt sleeves rolled up. And he has reason to be. A new poll from the Washington Post shows him with an eight point lead in Ohio. A New York Times poll shows him 10 points ahead in this state. Those same surveys give Mr. Obama a smaller but still substantial margin in Florida.
Ohio and Florida are essential in this race. Without at least one of them, it's nearly impossible for a candidate to reach 270 electoral votes.
Mr. Obama said Romney's problem can't be fixed by hitting the strategy reset button.
OBAMA: No matter how much - how many times they promise to reboot their campaign. No matter how many times they start saying they're going to explain the specifics of this thing, they can't. They won't.
SHAPIRO: Here in Northern Ohio, manufacturing is a huge part of the economy. And both campaigns have been trading accusations about who will do more to stop American jobs from moving to China. The president called Romney an election-season convert. He said his opponent has profited from Chinese economic abuses for years.
OBAMA: So, now when you hear this newfound outrage, when you see these ads he's running, promising to get tough on China, it feels a lot like that fox saying, you know, we need more secure chicken coops.
SHAPIRO: Before the president arrived, students and professors filled the bleachers, doing the wave with bright blue signs that said: Forward.
Joe Chiao moved to the U.S. from Taiwan 20 years ago. That island is one part of the tensions between the U.S. and China. Chiao thinks the China-bashing from both parties is out of date.
JOE CHIAO: We should all collaborate. This is a global world right now. It shouldn't be - we should all work together, that's really what I think.
SHAPIRO: Chiao is on the faculty at Bowling Green State University. He calls the city basically a satellite of Detroit, revolving almost entirely around making things.
CHIAO: So we have a lot of manufacturing here. It's very important. A lot of my neighbors work in factories.
SHAPIRO: Bobby Vigers is a 19-year-old sophomore who can't wait to cast his vote for the first time.
BOBBY VIGERS: I'm finally able to exercise my right to, like, so as a citizen of the United States. It's been anticipated for so long and it's cool that I finally get to do something like this.
SHAPIRO: He came to see the president, but he's not an Obama supporter. Vigers is a Republican, planning on voting for Romney. He says it feels like rooting for the underdog right now.
VIGERS: Honestly, I don't think Romney is going to win. I think Barack Obama has more supporters and I think he has more of the people's vote, and he'll probably capture Ohio.
SHAPIRO: The president ended his day with another university rally - this one at Kent State.
OBAMA: Go Flashes!
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SHAPIRO: Roy Skellinger stood in the crowd. He has spent the last four months knocking on doors for the Obama campaign, running into all kinds of people.
ROY SKELLINGER: You get a lot of different responses. You get everything from Tea Partiers to Republicans to people who don't want to talk to you period.
SHAPIRO: He says since that Romney fundraiser video came out, people's responses have changed.
SKELLINGER: Within the past couple weeks; I've seen that people are tending to think that maybe after the 47 percent comment, people really felt let down by Romney.
SHAPIRO: President Obama is trying his hardest to make sure those comments stay in the forefront of voters' minds.
Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the president. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.