Now it's Mitt Romney who wants to be the candidate of change.
Romney is seizing on President Barack Obama's comment that "you can't change Washington from the inside." Grasping for a way to right his campaign and appeal to independents, the Republican nominee says he has what it takes to end the nasty partisanship in the nation's capital.
"I can change Washington," Romney said Thursday. "I will change Washington. We'll get the job done from the inside. Republicans and Democrats will come together."
Romney was expected to press the issue again Friday during a campaign rally in Nevada, a state hard hit by the nation's housing and unemployment woes.
"The president today threw in the white flag of surrender again. He said he can't change Washington from inside, he can only change it from outside," Romney said in Sarasota, Fla. "Well, we're going to give him that chance in November. He's going outside!"
"I can change Washington, I will change Washington. We'll get the job done from the inside. Republicans and Democrats will come together. He can't do it."
And the Republican Party, too, seized on the opportunity. The Republican National Committee released a web video Friday with Party Chairman Reince Priebus saying Obama has gone from "yes we can" to "no I can't."
Obama's camp fired back, with David Axelrod on the "Today" calling Romney desperate to gain traction in the contest and that Romney was "just cascading from one gratuitous attack to another."
Obama has been trying to keep the nation focused on the comments Romney made during a secretly-taped video that has plagued his campaign all week. Romney has been accused of having disdain for Obama supporters, and worse -- for half of the nation that doesn't pay income taxes.
"When you express an attitude that half the country considers itself victims, that somehow they want to be dependent on government, my thinking is maybe you haven't gotten around a lot, because I travel around the country all the time and the American people are the hardest working there are," Obama said in florida on Thursday.
The Obama campaign also released a video pointing out that some of those who don't pay taxes are seniors.
It was during an interview in Florida with Spanish-language network Univision that Obama discussed the idea of bringing change to Washington.
"The fact that we haven't been able to change the tone in Washington is disappointing," Obama said. "The most important lesson I've learned is you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside."
Obama went on to say that getting ordinary Americans involved is key.
"That's how I got elected, and that's how the big accomplishments like health care got done, was because we mobilized the American people to speak out," he said. "That's how we were able to cut taxes for middle-class families."
Obama, traveling Friday to Virginia and addressing an AARP convention by satellite, planned to keep hammering Romney for his secret-video comments. And they also pointed to a 2007 video where Romney, too, talks about change in Washington coming from the "outside."
Clearly, the Republican nominee has a tough road ahead. Polls released late Thursday show Obama with a slight lead nationally, as well as in many of the eight or so battleground states that will decide the election. That includes Virginia, where Democrats with access to internal polling say Obama is up 3 or 4 percentage points over Romney in Virginia, a slimmer margin than in some recent public polling.
Obama has also pulled ahead of Romney in cash on hand, a key measure of a campaign's financial strength. The Democrat has more than $88 million to spend in the campaign's final weeks while Romney has just over $50 million at his disposal.
Romney is also facing criticism from some in his own party that he's spending too much time raising money and not enough time talking to voters in the eight or so battleground states that will decide the election. In response, his campaign added a Sunday rally in Colorado to his schedule and announced a three-day Ohio bus tour that kicks off Monday.
The president will campaign this weekend in Wisconsin, a state Romney is trying to put in play. Republicans are hoping the addition of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket will help them claim victory there — or at least force Obama to spend time and money to hold the state.
Even with Election Day under seven weeks away, voters across the country are already casting ballots. By week's end, early voting will be under way in two dozen states.
Still, analysts say Obama is vulnerable despite the serial gaffes and the many questions about his campaign, Romney remains within striking range of the president.
There are three presidential debates in October, and Romney - who during the past month lightened his campaign schedule in favor of debate practices - clearly is pointing toward the showdowns with Obama as a chance to show Americans he is a better bet to turn things around.
Obama remains vulnerable thanks to a stubbornly high 8.1 percent unemployment rate, tepid economic growth and big majorities of voters who believe the United States is on the wrong track.
"Romney just came out of one of the worst months in presidential politics in recent memory, and he's hanging right in there," Republican strategist Rich Galen said. "If I was one of Obama's guys in Chicago, I'd be thinking: 'What does it take to get rid of this guy?' He won't go away."
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