Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — Mitt Romney's visit to Colorado today is part of an intensified schedule focused on the most competitive states as the Republican presidential nominee tries to counter criticism from some in his own party that his campaign is veering off course with about six weeks to go in the race.
The evening speech at a Denver-area high school, his first public event of the weekend, comes with Romney facing increasing pressure to spend less time raising money and more time explaining his plans to voters.
President Barack Obama had no official business or campaign activity scheduled.
From Denver, Romney was to begin a three-day bus tour in Ohio on Monday followed by a stop in Virginia — states that Obama won in 2008 and held by Republicans four years earlier.
It's the last full week before the presidential debates shift the campaign into a new phase, which Romney advisers suggest could prove pivotal after a period marked by negative attention, missteps and Republican concerns.
Already facing reports of internal finger-pointing and foreign policy questions, Romney endured a difficult week during which a secretly recorded video surfaced showing the former Massachusetts governor said that almost half of Americans are dependent upon government and see themselves as victims.
Romney's allies worked to reframe the video as an opportunity to draw a contrast between the level of government dependency that Romney and Obama envision.
“I think we had a good week last week,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday on ABC's “This Week.” ''We were able to frame up the debate last week in the sense of what future do we want and do you want out there for your kids and grandkids?”
In an interview set to air Sunday night, Romney told CBS' “60 Minutes” that his campaign is moving in the right direction. “It doesn't need a turnaround. We've got a campaign which is tied with an incumbent president to the United States,” Romney said, according to remarks released in advance by CBS.
While national polls remain tight, polls in several of the most closely watched states, including Colorado, suggest that Obama has opened narrow leads. Obama won Colorado by 9 points four years ago, but the state went to a Republican in the previous three presidential elections.
On Friday, Romney released his 2011 tax returns showing income of $13.7 million, largely from investment income. He spent much of his time this weekend raising money in California, which Democratic presidential nominees have carried for nearly a quarter-century.
While Romney was at a Beverly Hills hotel on Saturday, Obama worked to squash GOP hopes for a resurgence in Wisconsin. He assailed Romney's economic approach before an energized gathering of 18,000, Obama's biggest crowd of the campaign.
Obama faulted Romney for advancing a top-down economic approach that “never works.”
“The country doesn't succeed when only the folks at the very top are doing well,” Obama said. “We succeed when the middle class is doing well.”
Romney raised $6 million at the Saturday evening event that attracted celebrities Dennis Miller and Gary Sinise. Before a group of more than 1,000 California Republicans, Romney kept up his criticism of the president for fostering what Romney said was a culture of dependency.
“This is a tough time. These are our brothers and sisters. These are not statistics. These are people,” Romney declared. “The president's policies — these big-government, big-tax monolithic policies — are not working.”
In a more personal slap at Obama, Romney's campaign on Sunday released a television ad citing a new book by Washington Post editor Bob Woodward that claims that during a 2009 conference call on stimulus negotiations, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., put a verbose Obama on mute. “If he cannot lead his own party, how can he lead America?” the ad says.
Pelosi has denied the incident ever occurred. Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod, responding to the ad, said Romney's efforts to ramp up attacks on Obama were missing the point.
“It's not about them tearing down the president. They simply haven't offered ideas about how they're going to lift up the country,” Axelrod said on “This Week.” ''And until they do that, I think the American people are going to continue to reject him.”
Obama also looked to celebrities to help raise cash and keep bankrolling ads already saturating the most contested states.
Baseball great Hank Aaron supplied the star power at Obama's Milwaukee fundraisers.
“As one who wore the number 44 on his back for decades, I ask you to join me in helping the 44th president of the United States hit a grand slam,” said the 78-year-old Aaron.
But Obama's schedule has focused more on voters than donors in recent weeks. The president's campaign says Obama attended seven fundraisers and 14 public events since the day after the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago.
Over the last week alone, Romney has attended five public events, including three rallies, and more than a dozen fundraisers.
Romney adviser Kevin Madden defended the fundraising focus, while highlighting a shift toward swing states in the coming days
“We're here raising the resources we're going to need to compete in all those battleground states through Election Day,” Madden said. “That's also been matched with a really intense battle ground state schedule that's going to be coming up starting Sunday night. We're keeping very busy.”
But conservative worry remains.
“The Romney campaign has to get turned around. This week I called it incompetent, but only because I was being polite. I really meant 'rolling calamity,'” columnist Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, wrote late last week in The Wall Street Journal.
In Beverly Hills, Romney's California finance committee chairman Thomas Tellefsen tried to reassure supporters. “I wanted to share some thoughts with you tonight. They can provide you some comfort. Polls are not elections. The voters have not yet spoken,” Tellefsen said.