THE RACE: Obama, Romney working to stay on message

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By TOM RAUM, Associated Press

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are being buffeted by crosswinds as Obama fights to keep his job and Romney works to wrest it from him. Both know where they want to go, but getting there is something else.

Romney is trying to pivot from the incendiary social issues that dominated GOP primaries to the economy, which polls show is his strongest suit, Obama's biggest vulnerability and the No. 1 election issue.

The first Romney general-election TV commercial, released Friday, outlines what he'd do on Day One as president: submit tax cuts that "reward job creators not punish them," approve the Keystone oil pipeline and start rolling back Obama's health overhaul.

But mostly he's been forced on the defensive.

He's worked to deflect Team Obama efforts to paint him as a job-destroying corporate raider at Bain Capital in the 1980s. A fresh attack came Friday in a two-minute Democratic National Committee video titled "The Bane of Romney's Existence."

He also found himself having to repudiate a conservative independent group's floating of a $10 million TV ad campaign recalling Obama's ties to the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. It would have raised off-message race and religion issues.

The weak economy itself is the strongest challenge confronting Obama. A stream of weak data is undercutting his contention the economy is slowly recovering and the best chance for a full comeback is to stick with him.

Obama kicked off four days of international summitry Friday by announcing $3 billion in private sector pledges to help feed Africa's poor. But he may find it hard to demonstrate leadership at gatherings at Camp David and Chicago on two issues that defy easy solution: the European debt crisis and getting reluctant NATO members to pay more for Afghan security forces.

Romney campaigned in New Hampshire.

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