, FAIRFAX, Virginia, Oct 20 – US President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, on Saturday began preparing for their final debate, with Obama hunkering down at Camp David and Romney staying in Florida.
The third and last of their debates is scheduled for Monday at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
On Friday, Obama set an aggressive tone accusing Romney of suffering from policy “Romnesia,” a barb dismissed by the Republican as pettiness 18 days before the election.
One night earlier, both men had traded light-hearted banter at a charity dinner, but on Friday the verbal attacks turned nasty, with the Democratic incumbent taunting Romney’s efforts to tack to the centre as polling day looms.
“Mr. Severely Conservative wants you to think he was severely kidding about everything he said over the last year,” Obama said at a rally attended by some 9,000 people at a university campus outside Washington.
The Obama camp’s previous bid to skewer Romney with insulting tags – such as pushing the Robin-Hood-in-reverse term “Romney Hood” to tarnish his tax policies – have done nothing to protect the president’s shrinking poll lead.
But, with the pair’s last of three head-to-head debates set for Monday, the campaign returned to its tried and tested formula of branding Romney an untrustworthy flip-flopper.
“I mean, he’s changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping, we’ve got to name this condition that he’s going through. I think it’s called ‘Romnesia.’ That’s what it’s called,” Obama told the crowd.
The Republican nominee meanwhile campaigned in the biggest political battleground of all, Florida, where Monday’s debate will be held, and he didn’t hesitate to strike back at the president’s comments.
“This is a big country, with big opportunities and great challenges, and they keep on talking about smaller and smaller things” – Romney.
“They’ve been reduced to petty attacks and silly word games,” Romney told a crowd of more than 8,500 people at Daytona Beach, adding that Obama’s re-election bid “has become the incredible shrinking campaign.”
“This is a big country, with big opportunities and great challenges, and they keep on talking about smaller and smaller things.”
Romney, accompanied by his running mate Paul Ryan, laid into the incumbent for failing to map out his plan for another four years should he win re-election.
“They have no agenda for the future, no agenda for America, no agenda for a second term.”
While Romney’s camp dismissed Obama’s taunt as a gimmick, the image of Romney as a flip-flopper, one that his fellow conservatives have hit him with in the past, might yet gain traction with undecided voters.
One source that definitely does not back the multimillionaire private equity baron is The Salt Lake Tribune, the local paper in the home city of Romney’s Mormon faith, albeit a liberal one that endorsed Obama in 2008.