Campaigning together for the first time in Nevada, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, on Tuesday vowed to bring prosperity to America and jobs to the Silver State, cutting the unemployment rate here to 6 percent if voters choose them over President Barack Obama.
Romney encouraged about 6,000 supporters at a windy rally at the Henderson Pavilion to vote early to fuel his momentum through the Nov. 6 election two weeks away. The president, he said, is losing his argument for re-election because people don't want four more years of continued economic pain.
"His campaign is taking on water. Our campaign is full speed ahead," Romney said, adding he could handle two more weeks of "attacks" from the president but the country can't withstand a second term.
"We cannot handle four more years of what he is giving us," Romney said, noting 23 million Americans are looking for work, housing prices have plummeted and gasoline prices have doubled under Obama.
The Romney-Ryan visit preceded Obama's planned late-night stop today in Las Vegas as part of a two-day campaign tour of six states that probably will decide the White House race. Doors open at 6 p.m. at Doolittle Park. First lady Michelle Obama will campaign separately in Las Vegas on Friday at Orr Middle School.
Romney will be in Northern Nevada today for a rally in Reno in Washoe County, which he needs to win the state because Obama's strength is in Democratic-heavy Clark County, where 70 percent of the population lives.
Both Romney and Obama are making their closing arguments in the sprint to Nov. 6, as they criss-cross the country seeking every last vote in the close race.
On Tuesday, Obama hit Florida and Ohio, key states up for grabs. The president unveiled a 20-page booklet detailing his second-term agenda focused on rebuilding the middle class. Obama argues that he inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression and that his efforts to save the auto industry and other jobs are paying off.
In Dayton, Ohio, Obama slammed Romney as a chameleon candidate who is moving from the right to the middle.
"In the closing weeks of the campaign, he's doing everything he can to hide his true positions," Obama said. "He is terrific at making presentations about stuff he thinks is wrong with America, but he sure can't give you an answer about what will make it right. And that's not leadership you can trust."
In Henderson, Romney said that he would not raise taxes on the middle class and that he would boost energy development, promote small business and take other measures to help create 12 million jobs during his first term.
"How about four years where we are able to see rising take-home pay again?" Romney asked to cheers. "And, how about four years where at the end of which we get Nevada unemployment down to 6 percent or lower? Look, if we are going to see a real recovery and see that kind of direction, we are going to have to have real change."
Romney slammed Obama's campaign slogan, "forward," saying it "doesn't suggest change."
"I think a better campaign slogan may be 'forewarned,' " Romney said, drawing laughter from his backers, who sat on seats inside the white-tented pavilion and spread out on the surrounding lawn.
In Nevada, the unemployment rate is 11.8 percent, the highest in the nation, Rep. Ryan reminded the crowd of supporters, who screamed support as the Wisconsin congressman introduced Romney on stage.
"The reality is this: We can do better than this," Ryan said, calling Romney a "proven job creator. "At a time when we have a jobs crisis in America, wouldn't it be nice to have a job creator in the White House?"
Before Romney and Ryan took the stage, both shedding their suit jackets, top Nevada Republicans running for election talked up the GOP ticket as the answer to the state's and the nation's economic crisis.
The Republicans included U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who is facing Democratic challenger Rep. Shelley Berkley in a close Senate race that is tied to how well Romney and Obama do on Election Day.
U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., and Republican Danny Tarkanian preceded Heller in boosting the Romney-Ryan ticket. Heck's Democratic challenger is John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, the Nevada Assembly speaker. Tarkanian is running for Nevada's newest House seat against Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas.
Early voting in Nevada, which began Saturday, has broken records each day compared with the strong turnout four years ago when about two-thirds of the state's voters cast ballots before Election Day. Early voting continues through Nov. 2, four days before the general election on Nov. 6.
Democratic voters were turning out in much higher numbers than Republicans, according to tallies posted Tuesday afternoon by the Nevada secretary of state's office.
In the first three days of early voting, more than 162,000 ballots were cast or mailed in. Of the total, more than 75,800 were cast by Democrats and more than 59,700 by Republicans, giving Democrats an edge of more than 16,000.
Four years ago, Obama easily won Nevada by 12 percentage points. He is barely edging Romney in recent polls, and his Republican challenger remains within reach of upsetting the incumbent here.
The two men debated Monday night for the third and final time, launching the race to the finish.
Obama's top advisers said Tuesday they're confident the president is headed toward victory in the Silver State and in other battleground states where Obama is running ahead or even with Romney in early voting. Obama is doing especially well among women, minority groups and young, first-time voters, his campaign said.
"We have the ball. We have the lead," David Axelrod, a senior strategist for Obama, told reporters during a conference call. "I'm confident we're going to win the race."
The Romney camp sounded confident the former Massachusetts governor could close the deal with voters. Kevin Madden, a Romney adviser, told reporters traveling on Romney's plane as it headed to Nevada that Romney is focusing his time and energy on the states that will determine who the next leader of the country will be.
"So we're going to be in places like Colorado, Nevada, Iowa," Madden said. "We'll be back to Florida, I expect. Virginia. You know these next 14 days we're going to be very busy. We're going to be in multiple states in single days. I think the governor right now is really focused. I think he's really energized and he's looking forward to it."