Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, and his newly announced vice presidential running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, greet supporters during a campaign rally in Manassas, Va., on Aug. 11, 2012.
MEXICO CITY — Republican Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, exactly one month from Election Day, are both declaring they will win a race for the White House that remains anything but clear. Their trails cross again Tuesday in Ohio, the state that could decide the election, and signs of urgency are emerging from each campaign.
Romney was set to campaign in Iowa and then Ohio, where Obama planned to rally support from students at Ohio State University on the last day for Ohioans to register to vote. Early voting is under way there and in many other states in one form or another.
The U.S. president is not chosen by a nationwide popular vote but in state-by-state contests making battleground states like Ohio, which are neither reliably Republican nor Democratic, especially important in tight elections, as the Nov. 6 vote will be.
"I very much intend to win this election," Obama told donors in San Francisco on Monday night. "But we're only going to do it if everybody is almost obsessive for the next 29 days."
Romney, speaking on a rainy day in Newport News, Virginia, joined the kind of die-hard supporters he needs for victory. "People wonder why it is I'm so confident we're going to win," he told them. "I'm confident because I see you here on a day like this. This is unbelievable."
Romney will campaign in Iowa and Ohio, two of the nine contested states on the path to 270 electoral votes. Still riding high after a strong debate performance, Romney is expected to attend a midday rally in Van Meter, a small town west of Des Moines. Tough-talking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to join Romney for a night rally near Akron, Ohio.
As negative ads blanketed the toss-up states, the Obama campaign on Tuesday unleashed one on national broadcast and cable networks featuring its favorite new weapon — Big Bird.
Employing ominous narration, the spot ridicules Romney for singling out the "Sesame Street" character and PBS subsidies as examples of how he would cut spending. "One man has the guts to say his name," says the ad, flashing to Romney and then the feathered creature. "Big. Yellow. A menace to our economy. Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about. It's Sesame Street."
Obama maintains more paths to victory, but polling shows a tightening race after more than 67 million people watched Romney shine in the Denver debate last week. The challenger's path victory is extremely narrow, particularly without Ohio. No Republican has won the presidency without carrying the state.
The competitors pivot to Ohio after closing out different missions.
Obama capped a two-day California visit that took him from the cliffside mansions of Beverly Hills to the golden fields outside Bakersfield to downtown San Francisco. The trip was mainly about raising millions of campaign dollars.
Romney sought to burnish his credentials as a potential commander in chief with a foreign policy address before Virginia Military Institute cadets, asserting that Obama's efforts have been weak in the volatile Middle East and his leadership in world affairs lacking overall.
Obama's aides said the president was upbeat in private, well aware that he had to do better in next week's debate in New York, but steady and looking forward to another shot.
Based on the presumed outcome of the 41 non-battleground states and Washington, D.C., Obama enters the final period banking on 237 electoral votes. Romney is assured of 191.
On the road to 270, the battleground states account for the final 110 electoral votes: Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Colorado.
Both Democrats and Republicans say internal campaign surveys following last week's debate show Romney cut into the lead Obama had built up in many key battleground states. But they say Obama still has an advantage in most of them.
A lack of independent polling makes it difficult to know whether that's true. Romney pulled ahead of Obama, 49 to 45 percent nationally, among likely voters in a Pew Research Center poll conducted after the debate.