CHARLOTTE, NC (AP):
United States President Barack Obama is embarking on a four-day march through battleground states and the storm-battered Gulf Coast in the lead-up to his party's convention as he seeks to blunt any momentum picked up by Republican rival Mitt Romney.
As his party's faithful began streaming to Charlotte, North Carolina, for this week's convention, Obama returned to Iowa yesterday.
For his part, Romney looked to capitalise on a newly energised Repub-lican Party fresh from its convention in Tampa, Florida, with a rally in Cincinnati before he joined his running mate Paul Ryan in Jackson-ville, Florida.
Both campaigns were criss-crossing the country as the race entered September, each day adding to the sense of urgency in a presidential contest that has remained tight since Romney sewed up the nomination in April.
The two campaigns recognise that undecided elements of the electorate, including those in about eight key states, will begin to fully assess their options through the conventions and the upcoming debates in the weeks ahead.
"Hold us accountable. Listen to what we have to say," Romney said in a post-convention rally in Lakeland, Florida, last Friday. "I plan on winning in Florida. We love this country and we're taking it back."
Obama's run-up to the convention will take him through the battleground states of Iowa, Colorado, Ohio and Virginia, four states that he carried in 2008 but remain at the top of Romney's wish list.
He spent yesterday in suburban Des Moines and Sioux City, Iowa, before heading to Colorado for an event today with college students at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
The Democratic Party's convention, which starts Tuesday will focus more on where voters want their lives to be in the next four years.
Obama inherited an economy grappling with a sweeping recession and the pace of the sluggish recovery has become one of Obama's greatest impediments to re-election.
The coming days, capped by Obama's speech on Thursday night, will crystallise his re-election pitch: an economy built on ending tax cuts for the rich and putting more effort into education, energy, tax reform and debt reduction.
He will call Romney a peddler of failed trickle-down ideas that will hurt the middle class and the needy.
Romney was capping his convention week in Ohio and Florida, the two most prominent states that remain up for grabs.
"What Americans have seen over the last few days is a party and a Republican ticket absolutely committed to addressing the job crisis," said Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom.