* Romney casts himself as an agent of change
* Race is essentially tied 12 days from election day
* Both candidates criss-crossing the swing states
By Jeff Mason
CHICAGO, Oct 25 President Barack Obama won the
endorsement of retired General Colin Powell, a moderate
Republican, on Thursday as he and Republican rival Mitt Romney
engaged in frantic campaigning in battleground states to try to
turn a razor-close race their way.
Hoping to encourage supporters to vote ahead of the Nov. 6
election, Obama cast his ballot early in his home town of
Romney portrayed himself as an agent of change during a day
campaigning in Ohio with 12 days to go until the election.
There was little movement in the overall state of the race -
which is essentially tied. Romney was clinging to a one
percentage point lead over Obama in Thursday's Reuters/Ipsos
daily tracking poll, up 47 percent to 46 percent for Obama.
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll showed how Romney has
made up ground since defeating Obama in the first of their three
presidential debates on Oct. 3. The poll had Romney up by 50
percent to 47 percent among likely voters.
Romney charged that electing Obama would return Washington
to a "status-quo path," a path that "doesn't have an answer
about how to get the economy going."
"The path we're on does not have new answers," said Romney,
whose campaign has been centered around ways to create jobs in
the sputtering economy.
Powell's endorsement was a milestone for the president in
his re-election bid but since he had backed Obama four years
ago, it did not have the same impact this time around.
Powell was a secretary of state during the presidency of
Obama's Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. He told CBS he
is sticking with Obama because the economy is improving.
"The unemployment rate is too high. People are still hurting
in housing. But I see that we are starting to rise up," he said.
'I NEED OHIO'
Showing off his own momentum, Romney appeared at a rally in
Defiance, Ohio Thursday night where a campaign-estimated 12,000
people turned out to hear Romney after a concert by Big and
Rich, Meat Loaf and Randy Owen of country music group Alabama.
"We need to take America back, and I need Ohio," Romney
said. "And Ohio's going to set the course for the nation."
Obama has generated large crowds during a two-day,
eight-state tour that is taking him to Iowa, Colorado, Nevada,
Florida, Ohio, California, Illinois and Virginia.
Some 8,500 people showed up for an early morning rally in
Tampa, Florida on Thursday and some 15,000 came out for the
president in Richmond, Virginia.
The president has sought to rev up enthusiasm and momentum
in those crowds by talking about his cross-country trip.
"We are right in the middle of our 48-hour fly-around
campaign extravaganza," he said to applause in Florida. "We
pulled an all-nighter last night!"
The election will likely be decided in a handful of swing
states where the candidates are spending just about all of their
time, with none of them more important than Ohio.
The two campaigns squabbled over who has the upper hand in
Ohio, where the race is close. Democrats believe they have the
edge with an early voting and turn-out operation, but
"A steady upward trajectory among key voting blocs indicates
a close race, but one that is unmistakably moving in Mitt
Romney's direction," said Romney national political director
Rich Beeson in an e-mailed memo.
The Romney campaign made clear it would have enough money to
fund television advertising in the swing states by announcing
his campaign had brought in more than $111 million from Oct. 1
to Oct. 17. The Romney campaign and its Republican allies
reported having $169 million cash on hand for the final push.