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BY JOSH LEDERMAN
LOS ANGELES--Mitt Romney's presidential campaign strove to turn the page on a week of public stumbles and Republican hand-wringing Sunday, promising a redoubled effort in the most competitive states to undercut his opponent's economic record as voters tune in for the final six weeks of a deadlocked race.
President Barack Obama, taking a rare break from the campaigning ahead of an address to world leaders on Tuesday, dispatched top allies to try to keep Romney's missteps alive in the minds of a dwindling cadre of undecided voters.
Both candidates were looking ahead to the pivotal next phase of the campaign, where the three presidential debates--the first on Oct. 3 in Denver--present the greatest opportunities to speak directly to voters or to get tripped up by a gaffe-turned-sound bite with little time to recover before Election Day.
Rehearsal for those debates consumed the early part of the day for the former Massachusetts governor, who huddled with senior advisers in Los Angeles ahead of an evening campaign stop at a Denver-area high school. Romney has consistently taken time from his campaign schedule in recent weeks to focus on debate preparation--whether studying up on policy issues or roleplaying with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who has been tapped to play Obama in Romney's debate dry runs.
Meanwhile, the Romney campaign was trying to get its message back on track after a secretly recorded video released Monday showed Romney writing off his prospects for winning over the almost half of Americans who he said pay no taxes, are dependent upon government and see themselves as victims dominated the week.
"That certainly was a political analysis at a fundraiser, but it's not a governing philosophy," Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a prominent Romney supporter, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "He absolutely has a vision for 100 percent of America. And that is really different from this president."
But even many conservatives were publicly sweating over the remarks, which seemed to play into Democrats' caricature of Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat. Also dogging Romney were reports of internal finger-pointing and questions about his foreign policy judgment.
Amid mounting pressure to spend less time raising money and more time explaining his plans to voters, Romney was refocusing his schedule visit more frequently the most competitive states.