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Obama diagnoses his opponent with ‘Romnesia’

by Christi Parsons and Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau –

FAIRFAX, Va. — President Barack Obama diagnosed his opponent with a case of “Romnesia” Friday morning but pledged to help solve the problem by reminding voters of Mitt Romney’s “severely conservative” positions.

Speaking to a crowd here, Obama accused Romney of “backtracking and sidestepping” in transitioning from the conservative GOP primary to the general election campaign.

“If you come down with a case of ‘Romnesia’ and you can’t seem to remember the policies that are still on your website,” Obama said, “here’s the good news: We can fix you up! We’ve got a cure!”

The remarks are Obama’s parting shot before he leaves the campaign trail to prepare for his final debate with Romney in Florida on Monday, providing a glimpse into what advisers have been saying is his frame of mind these days.

Obama is now focused more vigorously on drawing the contrast between himself and Romney, aides say, something he seemed to be enjoying on the stump Friday. He drew out the new “Romnesia” riff and milked it for several laughs and long cheers from the audience.

Romney is drawing contrasts, too, as he campaigns in Virginia, where new polls show him leading or at least competitive with Obama.

In a state heavy with veterans and defense contractors, Romney is hitting hard on the Pentagon cuts scheduled to set in at the end of the year if Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on a plan to avert them.

He is airing ads that tie Obama to the pending reductions, put in place as part of a bipartisan agreement. Obama aides are floating the possibility this week that Obama would veto legislation to block the automatic cuts if Republicans refuse to raise taxes on the wealthy to help keep deficit spending in check.

As Romney focuses on defense, Obama is working to gin up turnout among women by talking about Romney’s record on health and social issues.

At George Mason University on Friday, Obama repeatedly reminded listeners that Romney doesn’t openly support the Lilly Ledbetter law guaranteeing equal pay for equal work.

Romney has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood and supports the overturning of the Roe vs. Wade decision that made abortion legal in the U.S. He also opposes the provision in the Obama health care overhaul that will require insurance companies to provide contraceptive coverage for all.

Romney has turned down the volume on some of those positions in recent days, even declaring support for universal access to contraceptives during the Tuesday debate.

Obama wants to cure the Romney amnesia, he said Friday, especially if it afflicts any of the suburban women who could tilt the outcome in this swing state.

“I want to make sure no one else catches it,” he said.

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