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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour with presidential politics. Mitt Romney is launching a four-day bus tour of swing states. President Obama will hop on his own bus early next week. Meantime, the two campaigns continue to joust over a series of sensationalist ads. In a few minutes, we'll talk about all this with our political commentators.

First, NPR's Ari Shapiro is traveling with the Romney campaign. He sent this update.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: The day began with dueling ads, each side accusing the other side of lying.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Seen this? Mitt Romney claiming the president would end welfare's work requirements?

SHAPIRO: The Obama campaign's TV ad quotes the New York Times and Washington Post, saying Romney's claims that the president gutted welfare reform are blatantly false.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: In fact, Obama's getting states to move 20 percent more people from welfare to work.

SHAPIRO: On the other side, the conservative outside group American Crossroads went meta with a Web ad featuring a CNN broadcast about a TV ad.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

WOLF BLITZER: A new attack ad by a superPAC backing President Obama basically blames Mitt Romney for a woman's death from cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: And this ad basically accuses Mitt Romney of practically killing her. Is that the kind of rhetoric you want to hear, especially a president who ran four years ago on raising the level of rhetoric?

SHAPIRO: Despite the intense negativity on both sides, three national polls gave President Obama good news this week. Surveys from CNN, Fox and Reuters all give the president a wider edge than he'd had before. This morning, the Romney camp dismissed those polls. In a background briefing with reporters, a senior advisor argued that they're just wrong. Quote: "There's been no national news that would push us from minus three points to minus nine points. 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 this 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 barbeque 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.

BRAD ELWINGER: He just doesn't seem to fit in with day to day people.

SHAPIRO: Brad Elwinger(ph) is a Democrat in Des Moines, Iowa, where Romney campaigned earlier this week.

ELWINGER: I don't want to go with the rich card. He just seems like he's kind of in his own world, 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 kind of vibe I get from him.

SHAPIRO: This morning, Romney advisor Eric Fernstrom said he doesn't buy the idea that Romney has a problem connecting with average people.

ERIC FERNSTROM: 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're impressed by it.

SHAPIRO: But in a new survey from CNN, 64 percent of Americans say they believe 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. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Romney campaign.

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