WASHINGTON (AP) — As the White House race shows signs of tightening nationally, President Barack Obama’s campaign is banking on a massive get-out-the-vote operation and state-by-state shades of economic improvement to maintain its apparent polling edge in battlegrounds from Ohio to Virginia. Republican Mitt Romney, re-energized by last week’s debate, is flashing new confidence on the campaign trail and pressing toward the political center on both foreign and domestic issues. But aides have outlined no clear path to winning the 270 Electoral College votes required to gain the White House. “Things are going pretty good,” the usually cautious Romney said Monday with a smile. One month from Election Day, polls show a close race. And with millions of Americans already voting and the potential for game-changing moments diminishing, the candidates have little room for error as they seek to sway a narrow swath of undecided voters. Obama aides acknowledge Romney’s strong turn on the debate stage helped him shift gears from a rocky September. But they also argue that Romney’s momentum was arrested somewhat by a Friday jobs report showing the unemployment rate declined to 7.8 percent, the lowest level of Obama’s presidency. They say the president was thrown during the debate by what they call Romney’s willingness to abandon his previous positions, including his $5 trillion tax cut proposal. In the next debate — and in television advertisements before then — the Democrat and his aides are expected to accuse Romney of lying about his own plans. “It seems pretty clear that their new strategy is basically just call us liars, to descend down into a mud pit and hopefully, with enough mudslinging back and forth and distortion, people will get demoralized and they can win by default,” said Romney running mate Paul Ryan. Both Democrats and Republicans say internal campaign surveys following last week’s debate show Romney has cut into the lead Obama had built up in many key battleground states. But they say Obama still has an advantage in most of the nine or so critical states, including Ohio and Virginia. In a foreign policy speech at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., on Monday, Romney cast himself as a statesman who would be part of a long, bipartisan tradition of American leadership in the world. He said the U.S. should use its power “wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively.” As Obama’s aides worked to poke holes in Romney’s foreign policy address, Obama declared a national monument at the Keene, Calif., home of Latino labor leader Cesar Chavez, the United Farmworkers Union founder who died in 1993. Sure to appeal to some Hispanic voters in swing states, Obama’s move came at the start of a day in which he also was raising political cash at events in San Francisco, as his campaign closed in on $1 billion in donations. The president has more get-out-the-vote offices than Romney in every competitive state; some offices never closed after the 2008 campaign. Democrats say that network helped them register more than 130,000 new voters — most in battleground states in the week before the debate. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans in nearly every competitive state with party registration, including Florida and Nevada. Romney’s team is working hard to chip away at that margin. Democrats have an edge in Iowa, where 62 percent of the 111,000 voters who have cast absentee ballots so far were registered Democrats. Twenty-percent were Republicans and 18 percent were unaffiliated, according to the Iowa secretary of state’s office. If Obama wins Ohio’s 18 electoral votes, Romney would need to win Florida and in all likelihood secure several up-for-grabs states such as Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, New Hampshire and Nevada to take the White House. Obama and Romney will face off again on Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y. in a town hall debate.
Today is Sunday, March 9, the 68th day of 2014. There are 297 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Much damage is being done to sidewalks, shade trees, fences and gardens by hogs that are running at large about town. 1889 -- 125 years ago: H.C. Cleveland was elected air knight captain of Rock Island Division Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias. 1914 -- 100 years ago: B.W. Wilson, authority on birds and their habits, spoke at the weekly luncheon at the Rock Island Club. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The famous Dionne quintuplets have been invited to visit King George and Queen Elizabeth in Toronto on May 22, but Papa Dionne thinks their majesties should include the Callander nursery in their tour. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Ever been smothered by funny stuff? Well more than 2,600 people were last night when two boys named Tom and Dick Smothers took a "rocky, twisting road to folk music" in Davenport Masonic Temple. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Moline residents soon may be asked to recycle part of their garbage and might even get paid for it.