GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney flew from Boston down to Virginia on Friday to launch a four-day swing-state bus tour. President Obama will start his own trip Monday, campaigning in Iowa for three days.
In the meantime, the two campaigns continue to joust over a series of ads, each side accusing the other of lying.
The Obama campaign's TV ad quotes The New York Times and The Washington Post saying Romney's claims that the president gutted welfare reform are blatantly false.
On the other side, the conservative outside group American Crossroads went meta with a Web ad featuring a CNN broadcast about a TV ad.
Despite the intense negativity on both sides, three national polls gave Obama good news this week. Surveys from CNN, Fox and Reuters all give the president a wider edge than he had before.
The Romney camp dismissed those polls on Friday. In a background briefing with reporters, a senior adviser argued that they're just wrong.
"There's been no national news that would push us from minus 3 points to minus 9 points," the adviser said. "That's a huge shift."
Of course, the assessment that there's been no national news dismisses the impact of Romney's foreign trip and the deluge of ads from both sides.
Over the next four days of the bus tour, Romney will try to change those trends in four swing states that the president won in 2008 — Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio. Stops include a NASCAR mechanic school and a barbecue shack.
These are places where Romney can connect with working-class voters, but also places where his white-collar New England background could rub people the wrong way.
"He just doesn't seem to fit in with day-to-day people," says Brad Elwinger, a Democrat in Des Moines, where Romney campaigned earlier this week. "I don't want to go with the rich card; he just seems like he's kind of in his own world. He has a hard time relating to people. When I hear him speak to people he doesn't seem to gel with them, I guess. It's just a vibe I get from him."
Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said he doesn't buy the idea that Romney has a problem connecting with average people.
"I think Americans of all types find Mitt Romney an appealing public leader. They look at his record of success — whether it's at the Olympics or here in the state of Massachusetts as governor or as a private businessman — and they are impressed by it," he said.
But in a new survey from CNN, 64 percent of Americans say they believe that Romney favors the rich over the middle class.
That's been a criticism of Romney from the beginning. And it's a challenge he'll have to overcome to win the votes of the swing-state voters he'll be meeting with over the next four days.