How Obama and Romney Came to Battle for the Mantle of 'Change'

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Romney was also aided by a new campaign finance regime which birthed a new brand of political action committee capable of raising millions of dollars from individuals and corporations—a potent combination Democrats feared would be enough to wipe away any fundraising advantage Obama's may have possessed.

Outside groups helped Romney's campaign essentially tie Obama's $1 billion campaign effort in 2012 – financing just over half of the ads aired on Romney's behalf in the general election according to the Wesleyan Media Project.

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Yet before Romney could clinch the Republican nomination, he would have to overcome opposition from within his own party.

"Romney's main objection to contemporary Washington seems to be that he is not administering it," said conservative columnist George Will in a December 2011 column. "God has 10 commandments, Woodrow Wilson had 14 points, Heinz had 57 varieties, but Romney's economic platform has 59 planks — 56 more than necessary if you have low taxes, free trade and fewer regulatory burdens."

As early as January, Romney led the field as the candidate most Republicans expected to win the GOP nomination, according to Gallup. But he would not officially secure his party's nomination until April, after spending more than $12.6 million to convince Republicans to nominate him.

Romney persevered though a crowded field of Republican contenders—Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, and Ron Paul.

During the primary, Romney's opponents would mete out a string of brutal criticisms of his two greatest vulnerabilities: a Massachusetts universal health care law and his time as the head of the private equity firm Bain Capital.

In the general election, Obama embraced Romney's Massachusetts health care bill as the basis of the plan Romney now seeks to repeal. And his campaign and its allies flooded the airwaves in battleground states like Ohio with ads accusing Romney of firing workers and outsourcing jobs through his stewardship of Bain.

The attacks appeared to have worked. Late in the summer, Romney was dogged by low favorability ratings, the lowest of any major party nominee at that point in the race since 1984, according to an ABC News/Washington Post Poll.

At the first presidential debate, however, Romney seized his opportunity to turn around the narrative with an aggressive performance that even Obama acknowledged in an ABC News interview handed the momentum to Romney.

Still, the Romney campaign has hinged this election on the state of the economy.

And though in September the unemployment rate fell below 8 percent for the first time since Obama took office, Romney argues on the campaign trail that the country can do better.

"Now if there's anybody that's worried that the last four years is the best we can do, or if there's anyone that's fearing that the American dream is fading away, or if there's anyone who wonders if there's better jobs or better paychecks or they're things of the past, there is a clear and unequivocal message: with the right leadership America is about to come roaring back," Romney said on Monday.

If either Obama or Romney are to win today, it will be with the help of Ohio, battleground state du jour where the unemployment rate has fallen from a high of 10.6 percent in 2010 to where it currently sits at 7.0 percent, some .8 percent lower than the national rate.

In that state on Sunday, Obama reminded voters of the "change" he campaigned on in 2008. "You may not agree with every decision I've made … you may sometimes be frustrated at the pace of change. I get frustrated at the pace of change sometimes. But you know I say what I mean and I mean what I say."

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