(CBS News) In the wake of an outreach to young voters by President Obama, Mitt Romney on Friday advised young voters at Otterbein University to separate "appearance" from "reality" this election season.
"Appearances do not always equal reality," the presumptive Republican nominee said. "Facts are more important than words."
Romney told the students at the Westerville, Ohio liberal arts school to be leery of smooth rhetoric, alluding to Mr. Obama's likeability and ability to deliver energetic speeches.
"You're going to hear a lot of words, but you will also have an opportunity to look at the facts," Romney said.
President Obama won voters aged 18-29 by 34 percent in the 2008 election, and he is working to maintain that margin this election season. During recent visits to college campuses in three battleground states - North Carolina, Ohio and Colorado - the president highlighted the issue of of expiring student loan subsidies.
Polls show that Romney has a lot of work to do to win the youth vote. According to a Pew Research poll released last week, young people support Mr. Obama 61 percent to 33 percent for Romney. A separate poll by Harvard's Institute of Politics, which was released Tuesday, shows Mr. Obama leading Romney by 17 points.
Republicans are not questioning the president's cool factor, but they are arguing his appeal is only skin-deep. The Karl Rove-backed super PAC American Crossroadsthis week portraying the president as cool but unable to deal with the challenges that confront a president.
At Otterbein University on Friday afternoon, Romney's comments echoed the video's broader message.
"Appearances do not conform with the facts or reality or track records," Romney said. "Words are easily malleable, but facts are stubborn."
Paul Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, a group that organizes and mobilizes young people to vote, told Hotsheet that Romney could at least partially close the gap among young voters. He said there are signs of "disaffection" with the president over the economy, a top issue for young voters as well as voters overall.
"We would call this a demographic that is in full play," Conway said. "They are feeling the impact of bad economy and we don't think they are behind one party."