DELAWARE, Ohio – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, riding a wave of improved polling since last week's debate, stumped across the Buckeye State on Wednesday, making bold promises on foreign policy, tax cuts, and energy policies.
New polling released Thursday shows Romney has closed the gap behind Obama in two critical battleground states, though he still trails by six points in Ohio, with Obama garnering 51 percent support and Romney 46 percent. The NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist survey was conducted between Oct. 7-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.
Romney leads Obama in Virginia, 48 percent to 47 percent, according to the poll, but Obama maintained his own one point advantage in Florida, 48 percent to 47 percent.
Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist poll, told NBC News that the president's edge in Ohio, where the poll had a higher percentage of likely voters identifying themselves as Democrats, may be reflective of the edge Democrats have with early voting, which has already begun.
"Those who said they voted absentee in the past week, since absentee voting started in Ohio, are overwhelmingly Democratic and they voted for the president by a wide margin," she said. "This can account for a difference in party identification among likely voters because last week they would have been 'likely voters' and this week, because absentee voting had started, they are 'definite voters.'"
Another new set of swing state polling has Obama up in Virginia, 51 percent to Romney's 46 percent. According to the New York Times/CBS News/Quinnipiac surveys, Obama also narrowly leads Wisconsin, 50 percent versus 47 percent for Romney and trails the Republican by one point in Colorado, 48 percent to 47 percent. The polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
Romney began his day touring a compressor factory in Mount Vernon with popular conservative New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and taking questions at a town hall event.
Though he confidently fielded questions about domestic policy, Romney hedged when asked about whether or not he supports the government's right to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely.
"I'll look at that particular piece of legislation," he said. "I can guarantee that when I become president I will not do things that interfere with the rights of our citizens and our freedoms. At the same time, I support efforts like the Patriot Act to secure our nation to from those who would attack us."
Romney also said that under his administration he would work to identify sympathetic Syrian rebels and work to arm them to help stem the violence in the Middle Eastern country. He added that Obama has failed to effectively lead or shape events in the tumultuous Middle East.
"That doesn't mean we send troops everywhere and we shoot everybody, it means instead we use our considerable economic influence and diplomatic influence to try and move nations that will make them more peaceable and provide greater opportunity and hope for their people," Romney said. "This is, in the Middle East, a time of extraordinary opportunity, but also danger. And America sitting on the sidelines is not the right approach."
At his second of three stops in Ohio, Romney asked supporters at Bun's Restaurant in Delaware if they could afford another four years under Obama.
"I hope people understand just what he would cost – he would be very expensive for the people of Ohio if he was re-elected," Romney said, noting gas prices have doubled since Obama took office.
Romney also laid out a couple more specifics of his plan to cut taxes.
He has been criticized by Obama and Democrats for promising to make cuts, without increasing the deficit but without enumerating how he would pay for his plan. "I will not raise taxes on middle income families," Romney said, rebutting a direct charge Obama makes in his stump speech. Obama says the only way to lower taxes 20 percent across the board as Romney proposes, is to eliminate deductions such as that for home mortgage interest, the earned income tax credit, the child credit, and/or charitable giving. Those would disproportionately hit the middle class, Obama says.
"My plan does this – there'll be no tax on interest, dividends or capital gains for middle income families in America," Romney said. "That means you can save money, you don't have to worry about the government trying to make you fill out forms to figure out how much interest you got from the bank or if you have a mutual fund a capital gain from the mutual fund. We'll simplify your taxes and make them lower for the middle class."
Cuts to those areas – interest, dividends and capital gains – are most beneficial for wealthier people who have money to save or invest, experts say.
Romney's final event, held at the Sidney County Fairgrounds before a crowd of about 7,000, featured Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.