President Barack Obama, seeking to shore up support from women, intensified his attack on Mitt Romney Thursday for endorsing a Republican Senate candidate who said that if a rape victim becomes pregnant, it is "something God intended."
Romney ignored the emotional social issue, holding to an optimistic tone as he fought for victory in crucial Ohio.
Obama, wrapping up a 40-hour battleground state blitz, also headed to his hometown of Chicago and cast his ballot 12 days before Election Day. The stopover was a high-profile attempt to boost turnout in early voting, a centerpiece of Obama's strategy.
The president made repeated, though indirect, references to Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock's controversial comment on rape and pregnancy.
"We've seen again this week, I don't think any male politicians should be making health care decisions for women," Obama told a crowd of about 15,000 in Richmond, Va. His aides pressed further, using a Web video to highlight Romney's endorsement of Mourdock and accuse the GOP nominee of kowtowing to his party's extreme elements.
Romney has disavowed Mourdock's comments, but his campaign says he still supports his Senate candidacy.
Romney brushed aside reporters' questions on the matter throughout the day. He centered his comments instead on turning his campaign's claims of momentum into a road map to winning the required minimum of 270 Electoral College votes, in which Ohio is crucial.
"This election is not about me," Romney told 3,000 people at a manufacturing company there. "It's not about the Republican Party. It's about America. And it's about your family."
Less than two weeks from Election Day, both candidates feverishly campaigned across the country in an exceedingly close race.
A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll showed Romney reaching 50 percent support from likely voters for the first time, with Obama at 47 percent, a difference within the margin of error.
But the focus of the race remained on nine or so competitive states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado. The urgent task for both campaigns is to cobble together wins in enough states to cross the 270 threshold.
Obama advisers say they have at least three ways to achieve that: Winning Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin; winning Ohio, Iowa and Nevada, or a five-state combination of Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado.
Romney's team has yet to publicly outline his specific pathways to 270. Without him winning Ohio, however, the Republican nominee would have to sweep every other competitive state.
Obama's campaign Thursday trumpeted the endorsement by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who supported Obama in 2008.
Romney's campaign reached out to women voters by sending Ann Romney on daytime's "Rachael Ray" show, where she prepared her meatloaf cakes recipe and took cameras along on a trip to Costco to shop in bulk for family gatherings.