The former Massachusetts governor stuck with his preferred message and itinerary, including Tuesday and Wednesday events in Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island, even though those heavily Democratic states will not be in play this fall. He also kept with his recent strategy of emphasizing his concern for women who own businesses, a clear sign that Democratic claims of GOP insensitivity to women have raised alarms.
Obama holds a double-digit polling advantage among women, who have made up a majority of the electorate in each presidential year since 1984. Overall, polling on the race has Obama on the upswing in a matchup with Romney, suggesting the president begins the contest with a slight advantage.
But his ratings on handling the economy remain in negative territory. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week said 47 percent say they trust Romney over Obama to handle the economy, compared with 43 percent who favor the president.
And trust — or the lack of it — is already defining the race.
Romney went off on the president's candor with the American people in a speech last week, saying an open-microphone moment with the Russian president about second-term "flexibility" reflected his brand of leadership. "He is intent on hiding. You and I will have to do the seeking," Romney said.
The Obama campaign has launched its own response effort. Said Axelrod: "One thing that we're going to be particularly vigilant about is monitoring what Gov. Romney says day-to-day, because sometimes it's harder to know whose record he distorts more — his own or the president's."
Obama's campaign has a sizeable cash advantage over Romney's, having more than $84 million in the bank at the end of February, Federal Election Commission records show. Romney's campaign had about $7.2 million.
This election cycle has also seen an explosion in the use of super political action committees, or super PACS, that can accept unlimited contributions, mostly from wealthy individuals but also from corporations and unions.
Romney especially benefited from such a super PAC, which unleashed a barrage of ads in key states to help crush his Republican competition. Obama flip-flopped on his opposition to super PACS, but one group set up to assist him has had trouble attracting seven-figure donations and lags behind its Republican-oriented counterparts.
Associated Press writers Charles Babington, Kasie Hunt, Ken Thomas and Jim Kuhnhenn and AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report. Babington reported from Hartford, Conn.