DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — President Barack Obama asked the Iowans who first voted for him as president to give him another chance to accomplish his goals, including the immigration overhaul that he predicts Republicans will want to accomplish if they are defeated in the White House race.
The president kicked off the busiest day of his re-election campaign with an appeal to the Iowa voters who selected him in the first-in-the-nation Democratic caucus in 2008. Obama later won the state in the general election, but it's a toss-up this year against Republican Mitt Romney and a suffering economy. Romney planned to visit the state later Wednesday with a stop in Cedar Rapids.
Obama, speaking to a crowd of 3,500 before falling yellow leaves at the Mississippi Valley Fairground, acknowledged he hasn't done all he set out to do four years ago. But he said he's been fighting for the people every day he's been in office.
"This is where it got started, Iowa," Obama said. "I believe in you, and I'm asking you to keep believing in me."
One of the goals he hasn't been able to meet is his promise to overhaul the nation's immigration system in his first year in office. He said he was confident he could pass reform in 2013 if re-elected because he said Republicans will have learned their lesson and will have "have a deep interest in getting that done."
The president originally made the comments Tuesday in an off-the-record interview with The Des Moines Register in pursuit of its endorsement. His campaign released the transcript Wednesday under pressure from the newspaper.
"Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt," Obama said. "Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community."
Obama also predicted he would get a so-called "grand bargain" on the deficit within the first six months but says it "will probably be messy."
The Romney campaign criticized another part of the interview in which Obama said he had no regrets for focusing on health care instead of the economy during his first two years in office. He rejected the notion that he could have accomplished more on the economy if he hadn't been pursuing health care reform.
Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said Obama didn't learn from his mistake.
"In the face of a struggling economy, President Obama took his eye off the ball, and spent over a year focused on passing Obamacare - a massive government takeover of health care that cuts Medicare for today's seniors, raises taxes on millions of middle-class families and impedes job creation," she said in a statement.
The two candidates were picking up their pace of travel with just 13 days left in the election. Their mission remains to sway the small pool of undecided voters, but their increasing emphasis is to implore their millions of supporters to vote, particularly in the battleground states that allow early ballots to be cast.
With polls showing more women backing Romney in recent weeks, Obama's campaign tried to tie his rival to a Republican Senate candidate's comments on rape.
Richard Mourdock, who is running for Senate in Indiana, said during a debate Tuesday that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape "that's something God intended."
Obama spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters that the president finds Mourdock's comments "outrageous and demeaning to women." Romney's campaign has said he does not agree, but Psaki said it was "perplexing" that Romney hasn't demanded Mourdock take down the ad he taped endorsing the candidate.
Romney traveled Wednesday to Reno, Nev., and then planned to stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, before a three-stop swing in Ohio on Thursday. He got some help on the airwaves in seven swing states from actor Clint Eastwood, who filmed an ad backing Romney for the Republican independent group American Crossroads. Eastwood says a second Obama term would be a "rerun of the first and our country just couldn't survive that."
Obama's campaign came out with a new 30-second ad Wednesday using the lesson of the 2000 Florida recount to urge its supporters to get vote. The ad points out that just 537 votes in that one state decided that election.
"If you're thinking your vote doesn't count, that it won't matter, well, back then, there were probably at least 537 people who felt the same way," the narrator says, speaking over images of war, economic collapse and ballot counting in Florida.
Obama was to campaign nearly around the clock Wednesday in what he told the Iowa crowd was "a 48-hour, fly-around marathon campaign extravaganza."
"We're going to pull an all-nighter. No sleep," Obama beamed as the end of the long campaign closed in.
His day was taking him from Washington to Iowa, Colorado, California and Nevada, and then overnight to Florida. Not stopping to sleep in a hotel was meant to signal spirit and drive — although, with a comfortable suite on Air Force One, Obama was hardly crashing out in the coach section for his red-eye flight.
It was the first time Obama was spending the night on his plane for a domestic trip, but far from unprecedented for an incumbent scrambling to keep his job.
Across the miles, Obama was holding rallies from morning to night, appearing on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno and calling some voters from the plane. It is the first half of a two-day trip that will see him going to Florida, Virginia and Ohio on Thursday, with a stop sandwiched in for him to cast his vote in Chicago.
With Obama holding an edge in the uncontested states, Romney must win more of the battlegrounds to reach the minimum 270 electoral votes for the presidency. Those states are Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and New Hampshire.
All of them will be drawing enormous personal attention from Romney and Obama, their wives, their running mates and other surrogates through Nov. 6.
From the Romney campaign, aides to Ryan were casting his speech Wednesday at Cleveland State University as a significant pitch.
He was to argue that Americans stuck in poverty cannot afford four more years like the past four. Ryan also planned to tell voters that Romney offers a better pathway for low-income Americans to improve their lives through opportunity and upward mobility, including school choice and public-private partnerships.
Pickler reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in Denver, Kasie Hunt in Reno, Nev., Ken Thomas and Josh Lederman in Washington and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.