MANSFIELD, Ohio — President Barack Obama squeaked out a fundraising victory over Mitt Romney in August as the candidates gear up for the final stretch of their closely contested campaign.
Obama raised more than $114 million, while Romney topped $111 million, according to numbers the rival campaigns released Monday. It’s the first time in four months that the Democrats have raised more than Republicans. It’s also a sharp increase for the president, who raised $75 million in July.
Despite Obama’s advantage in August, it’s the third straight month that Romney has collected more than $100 million, and the figure represents his best one-month fundraising total. Romney has socked away more money for the general election.
Campaigning Monday in the critical battleground of Ohio, Romney went after Obama on jobs and pledged that he and GOP running mate Paul Ryan will get Americans working again — and for higher wages, too.
“America does not have to have the long face we have right now under this president,” Romney said in Mansfield.
The Republican nominee also took a veiled swipe at Obama and his Democrats for omitting any reference to God in the platform the party adopted at its convention last week, then doing an abrupt and embarrassing about-face to include it.
Romney said America is a “nation under God” and that, if he’s lucky enough to become its president, “I will not take God out of my heart, I will not take God out of the public square and I will not take it out of the platform of my party.”
Before arriving in Ohio, the Republican hopeful showed signs of taking a new, more centrist tack toward health care and defense spending.
Romney said in an interview that aired Sunday that he would keep in place elements of the federal health care law Obama signed in 2010. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Romney said: “I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform. Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place.”
Campaign aides said Romney’s endorsement of parts of Obama’s Affordable Care Act was consistent with his previous position that those who haven’t had a gap in coverage shouldn’t be denied coverage.
The comments brought renewed attention to the similarities between the bill Obama signed and the one Romney put in place as governor of Massachusetts.
Romney aides dismissed the idea that his comments about defense cuts or health care were an effort to appear less partisan with the race for undecided voters under way.
“Repealing Obamacare is a focus because it costs too much and the taxes and regulations are hurting small business. That’s common sense,” spokesman Kevin Madden said. “Affordability and portability of health care insurance aren’t partisan issues.”
Romney also faulted congressional Republicans for going along with the White House on a budget deal that has set up automatic spending cuts to defense spending — a deal his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, helped steer.
Obama spent Monday at the White House, after spending the weekend campaigning in Florida.
On Sunday, the president focused Floridians’ attention on the GOP ticket’s stand on Medicare, an issue that’s been more favorable to Democrats.
At a rally in Melbourne, Obama told about 3,000 voters that Romney wants insurers to profit at the expense of working people.
“No American should have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies,” he said.
Romney and Ryan support allowing seniors in the future to choose between standard Medicare or a fixed payment to be used to buy private insurance.
After Ohio, Romney is heading to Nevada and Florida later this week. The Romney campaign began airing television advertisements for the first time in Wisconsin this week, hoping to force Obama to play defense in a state Democrats have carried in every election since 1988.
With an eye toward undecided voters dismayed by the lackluster economic 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 — 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.
“Mitt Romney and I, based on our experience, think the best way to do this is to show the framework, show the outlines of these plans, and then to work with Congress to do this,” Ryan said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Obama shot back hours later, saying the Republicans’ proposals to cut taxes and cut the deficit don’t make mathematical sense.
“They need to stay after school. They need to get some extra study hall in there. No recess for you,” Obama said.
Early Monday, the Obama campaign released a new Web video accusing the Republican ticket of being evasive about which loopholes and deductions they would close.
Obama’s campaign said more than 1.1 million people donated to his re-election effort in August, bringing its total number of donors to more than 3 million. The average donation was $58 and 98 percent of donors gave $250 or less.
Obama reversed a three-month trend at the time he needs it most, having spent heavily over the summer on advertising in an attempt to keep Romney at bay.
Romney’s campaign did not release its total number of donors in August, but said about 94 percent of its donations came from people who gave $250 or less.
Associated Press writers
Julie Pace in Washington,
Jim Kuhnhenn in Melbourne, Fla., and Matthew Daly
in Milford, Ohio,
contributed to this report.