Romney hits Obama on economy; Obama takes on China

The candidates are focused on voters in eight swing states

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican Mitt Romney launched fresh critiques of President Barack Obama's handling of the economy today in an attempt to cut the incumbent's momentum, as the White House announced new a new trade enforcement case against China in the battle for working-class voters.

Obama was promoting a new trade enforcement action against Chinese subsidies of its auto industry during a campaign stop in Ohio, four days after Romney launched a commercial blitz accusing the president of allowing American manufacturing jobs to be lost to China.

With unrest in the Mideast still dominating the national news, ads the presidential rivals are running in the eight states likely to determine the election is exclusively on the economy, voters' top concern.

Romney's campaign piled on today with two new spots: one outlining his plan for job creation and the other assailing Obama for a growing national debt.

The ads are part of a shift in strategy for the Republican's campaign this week, intended to stop Obama's recent gains. Polls since the political conventions show not only that Obama is leading in the key swing states, but a recent national poll shows he has taken over Romney's long-standing advantage on the question of who voters view as most likely to restore the economy and create jobs.

Campaign aides say Romney plans to re-focus his campaign appearances on his five-point economic plan and make a series of speeches aimed at offering voters a more concrete outline of his plans.

A top Romney adviser speaking on condition of anonymity also confirmed that former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie will assume an elevated role in setting the campaign message for Romney and that it will focus more on a change-versus-status quo strategy.

The shift comes as Republicans openly fret about the state of their nominee's campaign and press Romney to give voters a clearer sense of how he would govern.

Over the weekend, Romney focused his advertising on one spot in the eight states likely to decide the election: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada and North Carolina. The ad accuses Obama of failing to crack down on China's cheating.

Romney's attention to China stems from a need to shore up support among the working-class voters he needs to turn out in big numbers on Nov. 6. Obama's quick counter underscored the importance of holding onto his recent gains in manufacturing-heavy Ohio, where he planned rallies today at parks in Cincinnati and Columbus highlighting his administration's trade action.

Romney responded in a statement accusing Obama of ignoring China for too long and promising he will act from his first day in office so U.S. businesses can compete more fairly.

"Campaign-season trade cases may sound good on the stump, but it is too little, too late for American businesses and middle-class families," Romney said. "President Obama's credibility on this issue has long since vanished."

Romney today was targeting his economic message to Hispanics, a key voting bloc with whom Obama enjoys an advantage. The Obama campaign released an online video today mocking Romney for trying to win over Hispanics even though the Obama campaign says the Republican wants to cut education and health care programs that would help them.

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