Perhaps boosted by the national attention on Hurricane Sandy's devastation in the Northeast -- where his administration has allocated millions in relief aid -- Obama has appeared more presidential in this final week, enjoying some much-needed momentum in the last days of his re-election campaign, with events in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa. But there is still no telling whether the momentum will be enough to give Obama the edge in what is promising to be an election close enough to rival the controversial Bush-Gore decision in 2000.
In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere on Friday, Obama -- who has long called himself a "two-term president" -- appealed to voters to give him more time to deliver on the promises he made in 2008.
Refraining from taking easy jabs at Romney's public blunders and personal wealth, as his campaign often did in October, Obama instead focused on the positive while reminding voters that there is still much work to do. He invoked Bill Clinton's popular legacy, framing his economic plan as an extension of Clinton's fondly remembered record.
"Bill Clinton asked the wealthiest to pay a little more so we could reduce the deficit and still make these investments," the president wrote. "By the end of his second term, America had created 23 million new jobs. Incomes were up. Poverty was down. Deficits became surpluses. And Wall Street did very well," he pointed out, before blaming the shift in the country's economic health on the Bush administration's departure from Clinton's policies, one that a Romney administration can be expected to mirror.
Obama also highlighted his views on military spending, in contrast with Romney's vow to increase it.
"So long as I'm commander in chief, we'll pursue our enemies with the strongest military in the world," Obama wrote. "But it is time to use the savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay down our debt and rebuild American roads, bridges, schools and broadband."
USA Today asked both candidates to tell voters in 90 seconds what they planned to do, if elected, during their first 100 days in office, and published a video of the responses on its website this week.
In his video, Obama said his immediate priority is the thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy who have been displaced by the devastating storm. "We will be there as long as it takes to recover and rebuild," the president promised.
He then spoke of his administration's achievements in job creation, ending the war in Iraq, reviving the domestic auto industry, and killing Osama Bin Laden. "We have made real progress," he said. "Now we have to build an economy that works for the middle class."
As it was in 2008, "change" is a key talking point in the last hours of Obama's campaign -- though this time the president must make the case that he has already achieved some of the change he promised four years ago.
"...when I tell you I know what real change looks like, it’s because I’ve fought for it; because I delivered it; because I’ve got the scars to prove it — because that’s why my hair went gray," the president said at a rally in Ohio Monday. "And, Ohio, after all we’ve been through together, we can’t give up on it now. We’ve got to keep on going and bring some more change to America. We’ve got more work to do."
As it becomes increasingly clear that voter turnout could very well decide the outcome, Obama has urged voters to get out to the polls during his 11th-hour campaigning efforts. “If we don’t turn out the vote, we could lose a lot of the gains we’ve already made," the president said in one of two radio interviews aimed at minority voters Monday morning
Indeed, Obama does not appear to have been able to energize voters in the same way he did in 2008, when much of the country was sick of a two-term Republican administration and more than ready for the changes the relatively young, self-made candidate promised. Four years later, many of his supporters have expressed some degree of disappointment in the president's first-term performance, and enthusiasm has been further dampened by what was widely perceived as a lackluster performance in the first -- and most critical -- election debate on Oct. 3.
But the president appears to have regained his footing during this final campaign push, appearing confident and sincere -- if a bit world-weary -- as he balances his exceptionally demanding job as the leader of the free world with his efforts to keep it.
“After all we have been through, we can’t give up now,” Obama said during a rally in Concord, N.H., on Sunday. “I’m not ready to give up the fight.”