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In final stretch, Romney seeks to turn momentum into votes

by
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) greets Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney following the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Rato
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) greets Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney following the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Rato

By Sam Youngman

MORRISON, Colo. (Reuters) - Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney kicked off his sprint to the election finish line on Tuesday, seeking to harness momentum from his three televised debates with President Barack Obama to energize supporters in an extremely tight race.

While Obama was judged by polls as the winner of Monday's debate over foreign policy, Romney was reckoned to have performed well enough to pass the "commander-in-chief" test.

He has rebounded in polls since trouncing Obama in the first debate on October 3 and was only 1 point behind in a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday that had Obama ahead by 47-46 percent. A Washington Post/ABC poll gave Romney the lead by 49-48 percent.

"These debates have super charged our campaign, there's no question about it," Romney told a rally in Nevada.

"We're seeing more and more enthusiasm, more and more support. We're going to make sure that these campaigns and the message of these debates, rather, these messages, keep going across the country," he told a crowd, estimated by his campaign at 6,000 people, in Henderson, Nevada.

In what was easily the biggest rally of his campaign, a capacity crowd of as many as 10,000 people showed up - and thousands more were turned away - to listen to Romney and musician Kid Rock at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, another state that could be critical to Republican hopes.

Romney was joined by his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan.

"We're in the homestretch now, and I think the people of Colorado are going to get us all the way there," Romney said.

He is expected to spend much of the last days before the November 6 election in the key state of Ohio. No Republican has ever won the White House without it.

Romney needs to "do better than (2008 Republican presidential candidate John) McCain did among working-class whites in Ohio," said University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala.

Polls show Obama slightly ahead in Ohio, but Scala said Romney can swing the state - and perhaps the presidential race - if he manages to rally Republicans in counties won by conservative rival Rick Santorum in the primary vote earlier this year.

Now that the debates are over, Romney has turned his full attention to voter contact and has no more fundraisers scheduled, although his wife Ann and Ryan will still do fundraising events.

As part of his message to voters, Romney and his campaign have made central to their argument in recent days that Obama has not offered an agenda for his second term.

"And that's why his campaign is taking on water, and our campaign is full speed ahead," Romney said.

Senior adviser Kevin Madden said Romney will spend most of his time down the stretch in Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and Virginia.

"We're going to be in multiple states in single days," Madden said.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Christopher Wilson)

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