Romney, Obama battle it out for votes in Ohio

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama spent their day campaigning for votes in Ohio on Oct. 25, 2012.
CBS News

(CBS News) We're down to the last 12 days of campaign 2012 and a new poll out Thursday night shows Mitt Romney has closed the gender gap. Last month, President Obama led among women by 16 points. But now they're dead even -- 47 percent to 47. On the other hand, Gov. Romney's lead among men has been cut from 13 points last month to just five now -- 47 percent to 42.

Most polls show the president ahead in Ohio, and it may be Ohio that tips the balance on Election Night. Both men were there Thursday.

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Mitt Romney was in four different swing states Wednesday, and Thursday he is spending every minute right here in Ohio. He doesn't have to win this state to win the election, but it will very hard for him to do it without it.

Watch Jan Crawford's report on Mitt Romney stumping in battleground Ohio:

"On November 6th, I'm counting on Ohio to vote for big change!" Romney said to the sound of cheers.

He's hoping to see a change here in Ohio--a state that Mr. Obama won by four points in 2008 -- and one that's proven difficult for Romney to crack.

The latest CBS News poll has him down by five points-- 50 percent to 45 -- perhaps because, he's been hit since the spring by of a flood of negative advertising in the state, and because of his opposition to the auto bailout.

But crossing Ohio Thursday, the Romney campaign claimed it has momentum. The same poll shows Romney has a strong edge in voter enthusiasm--which is a factor in turnout. And he's leading among independents - up 7 points in the CBS poll, 49 to 42 percent. In 2008, Mr Obama won that group by 8 over John McCain.

Meanwhile, President Obama is in the 35th hour of a marathon campaign swing through eight states that culminates here Thursday night in Cleveland. His voice is almost gone, and that's kind of the point: to show he's willing to go the extra mile -- or in this case, 7300 extra miles -- to earn another term.

Watch Nancy Cordes' report on President Obama's marathon campaigning through several states:

Bearing a simple message: vote early, the president boarded Air Force One Wednesday morning, bound for Iowa, then Colorado, California and Nevada.

He spent the night flying back across the country to start the day in Tampa. By the time he arrived in Richmond, Virginia, he could barely deliver his signature catchphrase. "Are you fired up?" asked Obama. "Yes! Are you ready to go? I'm sorry - are you fired up? Yes!"

From there it was on to his hometown of Chicago, where Mr. Obama became the first sitting president to cast his ballot early."I'm just glad I renewed my driver's license," he joked.

And when he was done he urged others to follow his example."For all of you who have not yet early voted I just want everybody to see what an incredibly efficient process this was," he said.

There are two reasons the Obama campaign is pushing early voting. First, it creates an image of momentum. Second, Democratic voters have a tendency to be less reliable voters, so early voting gives them more opportunity to make it to the ballot box.

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    Jan Crawford is CBS News' chief legal correspondent and based in Washington, D.C.