Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is shifting away from hitting U.S. President Barack Obama on the economy and focusing on other issues, aides said.
Polls indicate voters are increasingly optimistic about the economy and willing to trust Obama at least as much as they do Romney on jobs and the economy.
More than two in three likely voters say in a United Press International Poll released Monday they expect their financial situation to improve during the next year, with 43 percent of adults saying they prefer Obama while 37 percent say they back Romney.
As a result, the Romney campaign is abandoning its hope of making the election a referendum on Obama's handling of the economy and jobs, aides told The New York Times.
As he prepares for Wednesday's first presidential debate, Romney intends to hit Obama on energy, healthcare, taxes and spending, as well as foreign policy in a later debate, campaign officials told the Times.
"Whether it's job creation, healthcare, energy or debt, the message is we cannot afford four more years like the last four years," Romney senior adviser Ed Gillespie told the Times after briefing reporters Monday. "We know this resonates with voters."
One Romney adviser told the newspaper last week Obama's campaign motto "Forward" was more effective that Romney's "Believe in America."
Both nominees are preparing for the first 90-minute debate Wednesday.
Romney arrived Monday in Denver, where the debate will be held, after several mock debates near his Massachusetts home with sparring partner Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio. Obama is in a Las Vegas suburb with aides and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., playing Romney.
Both senators are experienced stand-ins who know how to irritate their principals, aides told the New York Daily News.
The idea behind this is to practice staying poised and looking presidential, the aides said.
The first nationally televised debate, at the University of Denver's 7,200-seat Magness Arena, is expected to focus on domestic policy, with questions likely dealing with the economy, healthcare, "the role of government and governing," moderator Jim Lehrer, executive editor and former anchor of the "PBS NewsHour," said.
The final two debates are to take place Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y., and Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla.
An ABC/Washington Post poll released Monday found voters say they believe Obama will win Wednesday's debate 56 percent to 29 percent.
The phone poll of 1,101 adults taken Sept. 26-29 has a 3.5 percentage point margin of error.
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