Hoping to put a human face on the issue, Obama ate breakfast at a Florida cafe with two older couples concerned about Medicare costs. But a brief interaction with another patron and Romney supporter underscored what polls show is a persistent problem for Obama with voters who like him personally but question his economic competence.
"I always thought he was a very personable person, nice person," said 73-year-old Bill Terrell of Cocoa, Fla. "I just don't think he's doing a good job on the economy."
In broadcast interviews, Romney and Ryan kept the heat on Obama on the economic front, warning that across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect at the start of 2013 could devastate the defense budget. Half of the cuts are expected to come from the Pentagon if Congress doesn't reach a budget solution in the next few months.
But Romney's attacks on the president for signing the deficit-reduction measure had some collateral damage for his running mate, who as House Budget Committee chairman both voted for and loudly praised the bill that created the trigger for the automatic spending cuts.
"I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it," Romney said. "I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it."
With an eye toward undecided voters dismayed by the lackluster recovery, Romney and Ryan faulted Obama for failing to provide the tax relief they say holds the key to the creation of millions of jobs. Romney has pledged to lower tax rates for by 20 percent for all Americans — including the wealthy.
Romney has said he'll pay for those cuts by eliminating loopholes and deductions for higher-income earners. But both Republicans were unyielding in saying that the specifics would come only after the election.