President Obama and Mitt Romney will sprint to swing states Thursday in the wake of the first presidential debate, hoping to create some momentum after the prime-time forum and revisit their best moments from center stage in front of the voters who will likely decide the election.
After a morning rally in Colorado, Obama will travel to Wisconsin for the second time in recent weeks, where he'll be on friendly terrain at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. On Friday, the president will hold an event at George Mason University in Fairfax, hitting the campaign trail in the crucial Northern Virginia suburbs. He'll spend the afternoon in Cleveland.
Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will hold their own rally in Virginia on Thursday, joining country music star Trace Adkins in Fishersville. The Republican nominee will skip down to Florida the following day, looking to make inroads in St. Petersburg -- a high-priority area in a state where polls have tightened as of late.
Though Wednesday's debate received the national limelight, these swing-state treks are designed for the candidates to launch more aggressive attacks on their opponent.
"The candidates get a twofer," said Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. "They get the debate, and they can redeliver their message in states where it matters the most. If you hear a message twice -- especially in your own backyard -- you're more likely to remember it."
The trips to Virginia in these critical days after the most-watched debate illustrate how hard Obama and Romney are fighting for the Old Dominion. Recent polls show Obama has widened his lead in the Republican-leaning state, which he carried four years ago, but analysts said not to read too much into those early snapshots.
"This is a 2-to-3-point race," Sabato said. "It will always turn out that way no matter what the polls say."
Obama's campaign-trail trek to Madison comes as Romney makes a concerted effort to bring Wisconsin, a state that hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984, into the GOP fold.
A new Marquette University poll released Wednesday gave Obama an 11 percentage-point lead over Romney in the Midwestern state. The president has maintained that advantage even after Romney picked Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman, as his running mate.
"Democrats are in a good position in this state," said Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "It's surprising in a way, considering the change in direction [toward Republicans] at the state level."
The president angered some Democrats when he didn't go to Wisconsin earlier this year to help labor unions in a recall election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker. If his return to the Badger State less than two weeks after his last visit is any indication, however, the president is not taking the state for granted.
Both presidential tickets will continue to crisscross battlegrounds until the next nationally televised debate. Vice President Biden and Ryan will square off on the debate stage next Thursday in Kentucky, and Romney and Obama will meet again Oct. 16 in New York.