HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Fresh off an intently combative debate, President Barack Obama, Republican Mitt Romney and their running mates are taking their tuned-up fight to the precious few battleground states where the election is still up for grabs with just 20 days to go.
In the sprint to Election Day, Nov. 6, every aspect of the campaign seems to be taking on a fresh sense of urgency — the ads, the fundraising, the grass-roots mobilizing, the outreach to key voting blocs, particularly women. Romney quietly began airing a new TV ad suggesting he believes abortion "should be an option" in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at stake.
The ad is an appeal to women voters, who polls show have favored Obama throughout the race although Romney has been making gains among them. Romney supported abortion rights as Massachusetts governor but now says he opposes abortion with limited exceptions. His campaign didn't announce the ad, but it began running on Tuesday's debate night on stations that reach Virginia, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Romney was heading to Virginia and sending running mate Paul Ryan to Ohio — two states that Obama won four years ago where the GOP ticket has been making its most aggressive run. Obama was headed to Iowa, while Vice President Joe Biden was westward bound for Colorado and Nevada.
Obama appears to have 237 of the 270 electoral votes needed for victory comfortably in hand, and Romney is confident of 191. That leaves 110 electoral votes up for grabs in nine battleground states: Florida (29), Ohio (18), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6) and New Hampshire (4).
The two candidates debated Tuesday night as if their political lives depended on it — because they do. It was a re-energized Obama who showed up at Hofstra University, lifting the spirits of Democrats who felt let down by the president's limp performance in the candidates' first encounter two weeks ago.