Romney begins "blue state" bus tour

This photo taken Aug. 2, 2012 shows Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigning in Golden, Colo. Undecided voters in swing states hold the key to the presidential election, but there?s no obvious recipe for winning them over. Friday?s new jobs report, even if dismal, might do little to help challenger Mitt Romney with this group. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

(CBS News) NORFOLK, Va. - Mitt Romney embarks on Saturday on a bus tour that will bring him to 12 cities in four swing states, all of which President Obama won during the 2008 election and all of which remain competitive today.

The campaign has dubbed it the "Romney Plan for a Stronger Middle Class" tour. It marks a ramping-up of Romney's public schedule, which slowed considerably after his first bus tour brought him to 14 cities in six states over a five-day period in late June. Since then, Romney has held just 20 campaign events across the country, as he took time off for a vacation, focused on fundraising and spent a much-publicized week abroad.

"It's great to be out campaigning," Romney told reporters on his charter flight from Bedford, Mass., to Norfolk on Friday evening. "You know a lot of campaigning is raising money, which has its own rewards, honestly, but campaigning is the most fun. The most enjoyable and rewarding."

Romney's upcoming sojourn -- which one of his aides called a "blue state tour" -- will bring him to Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio over a four-day period. In all but North Carolina, Romney finds himself trailing Obama in recent polling, a fact that Romney advisers shrug off. They point to a decline in Obama's 2012 polling numbers in each state relative to how he did in 2008.

"In 2008 these states were all won by Obama, but this time around his support has eroded considerably," Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters in Boston on Friday. "Even though his team is pouring tons of resources into these states, the bad economy continues to hang over Obama like a dark cloud."

Another advisor, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, pointed to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll showing Republican voters to be more enthusiastic about voting this year than Democrats. "It reinforces that point that the intensity in this election is behind the Republicans," said the adviser.

The tour will allow Romney the opportunity to begin to introduce himself to voters in the swing states that are just now beginning to pay attention to the presidential campaign. He will be joined on the bus by his wife, Ann. His son Matt and two of his grandchildren will also make an appearance.

"I think that they're going to be impressed by the fact that this is a family that shares their values," Ferhnstrom said. He dismissed a question from a reporter who suggested that Romney has had trouble connecting with blue-collar voters in similar areas in the past.

"I wish you could see the governor interact with people the way I see him," he said. "I don't buy into the premise of your question that there's some kind of disconnect."

According to Fehrnstrom, Romney will stick to some standard campaign themes while on the bus tour: growing jobs and the economy, promoting small business, repealing Obama's health care law and getting tough on China for unfair trade. He will make a point to stop by several small businesses, including Homemades by Suzanne, a catering company in Virginia, and Smokey's Shack, a North Carolina barbeque joint.

But just as he did earlier, Romney will have some competition. The Democratic National Committee has scheduled its own "Romney Economics: The Middle Class Under the Bus" tour and plans to make stops in each of the states that Romney will visit the day before he arrives.

At each stop, Democratic state representatives and other DNC members will offer a pre-buttal to the presumptive Republican nominee.

The DNC said in a statement that its effort "highlights Mitt Romney's record of failure as Governor of Massachusetts, the lack of support small businesses received from Governor Romney's administration and Romney's proposed tax hike on middle-class families to pay for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans."

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    Sarah Huisenga is covering the Mitt Romney campaign for CBS News and National Journal.