BOSTON—After weeks of light campaigning, Mitt Romney will kick off his general election push in a major way on Friday, launching a five-day tour of six must-win battleground states this fall.
Romney's trip, titled the "Believe in America: Every Town Counts" tour, will kick off Friday morning at a Stratham, N.H., farm where he officially launched his 2012 bid just over a year ago.
From there, the Republican nominee will travel by bus and plane deep into states President Obama won in 2008 but are up for grabs in November, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. Romney will wrap up his trip on Tuesday, with several scheduled rallies in his home state of Michigan, where recent polls have found him in a statistical tie with Obama heading into the fall.
According to Romney aides, the tour will take the Republican nominee through several small towns per day as the campaign seeks to undermine Obama's bid for a second term by highlighting how the struggling economy has negatively impacted middle class America.
But the trip also offers a major test for Romney, as he tries to convince average Americans who are still undecided about the election that he understands their plight and can lead the country better than Obama. It's an argument that Romney has struggled to make at times, amid criticism that he's too stiff and awkward on the stump and has trouble connecting with voters.
Not only will the tour mark Romney's most intense period of campaigning since early in the GOP primaries, the schedule appears to force Romney well out of his comfort zone on the trail. The Republican nominee is set to hold at least three formal events a day, but will also make impromptu stops at smaller venues along the way to meet and talk to random people.
Speaking extemporaneously has not been Romney's strength on the trail—though his aides have frequently countered that criticism by insisting voters will choose the candidate who offers the most compelling argument on how to revive the economy.
On that front, recent polls, including a Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week, have found Romney with a slight edge over Obama when it comes to who voters believe will best handle jobs and the economy.
But Obama has long held an edge over Romney when it comes to who voters personally like the most. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found Obama with an 11-point lead of Romney in favorability. It was one of the smallest gaps this year, but it was still enough to give many Republican operatives close to the Romney campaign pause, amid concerns that a too-close-to-call election could very well come down to which candidate voters like the most.
In recent weeks, Romney has stepped up his efforts to demonstrate that he's connecting with average Americans on the trail and feels the pain they are going through. Before almost every public event, the Republican nominee holds a private meeting with local residents to hear their tales of life under the struggling economy, and Romney often repeats the stories he's hearing on the stump.