RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
One week ago today, Mitt Romney walked into the first presidential debate as a candidate on the ropes. Now he appears to be in his strongest position yet.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Swing states that recently seemed far out of his reach now look like a virtual tie or even in some cases leaning in the Republican's direction. Here's NPR's Ari Shapiro.
ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: On a cold windy day, Mitt Romney took the stage at a farm in Madison County, Iowa. The barns and silos behind him were plastered with Romney logos and political slogans.
MITT ROMNEY: I come to this place recognizing that, gee, not every John Deere harvester has an R in it like that, but I appreciate that.
SHAPIRO: He aimed his message at farmers, arguing that the Obama administration could hurt farmers through tax policies, environmental and labor regulations, and other government programs.
ROMNEY: Let me just also note that, you know, people have been waiting a long time for a farm bill. And the president has to exert the kind of presidential leadership it takes to get the House and the Senate together and actually pass a farm bill.
SHAPIRO: Farm policy is personal to many Iowa families, and this week the Romney campaign has stepped up its effort to make their candidate warmer. Part of that effort involves working anecdotes into his stump speech. Yesterday in Iowa he told a new one about accidentally crashing a neighbor's Christmas party a few years ago, where he met a Navy SEAL named Glen Dougherty.
ROMNEY: You could imagine how I felt when I found out that he was one of the two former Navy SEALs killed in Benghazi on September 11. And it touched me, obviously, as I recognize this young man that I thought was so impressive had lost his life in the service of his fellow men and women.
SHAPIRO: While Governor Romney was in Iowa, he met with the Des Moines Register editorial board. He said no abortion legislation would be part of his agenda, but then the campaign quickly backpedaled. A spokeswoman said Romney would support legislation, quote, "aimed at providing greater protections for life." The Obama campaign pounced, accusing Romney of lying in order to win women's votes. Ever since Mitt Romney's dominance in last week's debate, national and swing state polls have shown a dramatic jump for him. He's now doing better than at almost any point since the general election began. On the Romney plane, adviser Kevin Madden told reporters the campaign's being careful not to declare premature victory.
KEVIN MADDEN: You can't put too much stock in this idea of momentum. I think it's a very elusive thing.
SHAPIRO: Still, campaign aides seemed more upbeat than they've been in a long time.
MADDEN: The clear contrast that we wanted to come out of the first debate has emerged and I think that works to our advantage. And it is going to help us position ourselves to win on Election Day.
SHAPIRO: In the evening, Romney held a rally in northern Ohio. He noted that at Obama rallies people chant four more years.
ROMNEY: Today, there are 28 days before the election. I think the right chant ought to be for them four more weeks, four more weeks, all right?
SHAPIRO: Soon enough, the crowd took up the cry.
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Four more weeks, four more weeks, four more weeks, four more weeks...
ROMNEY: You got the idea, you got the idea.
SHAPIRO: Once again, Romney made it clear that he's going for a broad appeal.
ROMNEY: This is not about one person, it's not about a political party, it's about our country.
SHAPIRO: The enthusiasm was obvious from the size of the crowd. With 12,000 people, this was one of Romney's biggest rallies of the entire election.
PEGGY PURCELL: I'm just passionate. I've never been to a rally. I've never done anything political, but I just really believe in him.
SHAPIRO: Peggy Purcell is a retired schoolteacher.
PURCELL: I feel like there's a resurgence in feeling like Mitt's an OK guy. For whatever reason, it was like bad to be rich. I don't know. I don't get that. But I feel like he is becoming more approachable.
SHAPIRO: Romney has three consecutive days of campaign events in Ohio. It's a state he virtually has to carry if he hopes to cobble together 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, traveling with the Romney campaign.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: We'll be with you all the way to Election Day and beyond on this local public radio station, which brings you MORNING EDITION. You can also follow us throughout the day on Facebook and Twitter. On Twitter, you can find us @MorningEdition and @NPRInskeep.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.