SAN FRANCISCO -- Exactly one month from Election Day, Republican Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are both declaring they will win a race for the White House that remains anything but clear. Their trails are crossing again in Ohio, the state that could decide the election, and signs of urgency are emerging from each campaign.
"I very much intend to win this election," Obama told donors in San Francisco Monday night. "But we're only going to do it if everybody is almost obsessive for the next 29 days."
Romney stood in a driving rain in Newport News, Va., his wet hair sticking to the side of his face, to join the kinds of die-hard supporters he needs for victory. "People wonder why it is I'm so confident we're going to win," he told them. "I'm confident because I see you here on a day like this. This is unbelievable."
Obama plans to rally support from students at Ohio State University on Tuesday, the last day for Ohioans to register to vote. Early voting is under way there and in many other states in one form or another.
Romney is set to campaign in Iowa and then Ohio, two of the nine contested states on the path to 270 electoral votes. Still riding high after a strong debate performance, Romney is expected to attend a midday rally in Van Meter, a small town 20 miles west of Des Moines. Tough-talking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is scheduled to join Romney for a night rally near Akron, Ohio.
Obama maintains more paths to victory, but polling shows a tightening race after more than 67 million people watched Romney shine in the Denver debate last week. The challenger's path to victory is extremely narrow, particularly without Ohio. No Republican has won the presidency without carrying the state.
As negative ads blanketed the toss-up states, the Obama campaign on Tuesday unleashed one on national broadcast and cable networks featuring its favorite new weapon - Big Bird.
Employing ominous narration, the spot ridicules Romney for singling out the "Sesame Street" character and PBS subsidies as examples of how he would cut spending. "One man has the guts to say his name," says the ad, flashing to Romney and then the feathered creature. "Big. Yellow. A menace to our economy. Mitt Romney knows it's not Wall Street you have to worry about. It's Sesame Street."
The competitors pivot to Ohio after closing out different missions.
Obama capped a two-day California visit that took him from the cliffside mansions of Beverly Hills to the golden fields outside Bakersfield to downtown San Francisco. The trip was mainly about raising millions of campaign dollars.