President Barack Obama turned his rival's name into an ailment on Friday, accusing Mitt Romney of suffering from "Romnesia" for emphasizing moderate positions rather than the conservative ones he put forward in the Republican primary race.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has closed a gap in opinion polls with the Democratic incumbent after giving a strong performance in the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, when he sounded a moderate note on healthcare reform and the need for government regulation - highlights of Obama's platform.
After a lackluster showing in that debate, Obama has delivered fiery retorts since, both in the second debate on Oct. 16 - which many observers say Obama won - and on the campaign trail, with the election looming on Nov. 6.
Obama told a crowd of about 9,000 in the election battleground state of Virginia that Romney has been backtracking on his conservative-leaning promises.
"He's forgetting what his own positions are, and he's betting that you will, too. I mean, he's changing up so much and backtracking and sidestepping, we've gotta ... name this condition that he's going through," Obama said.
"I think it's called Romnesia," he said to hoots and applause from the crowd.
Romney responded at an oceanfront rally with a crowd of about 8,500 people in Daytona Beach, Florida, saying: "They've been reduced to petty attacks and silly word games."
"Just watch it, the Obama campaign has become the incredible shrinking campaign. This is a big country with big opportunities and great challenges, and they keep on talking about smaller and smaller things," Romney added, saying Obama has "no agenda for a second term."
The Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll had Obama ahead by 3 percentage points much of this week. Obama was again on top by 46 percent to 43 percent in Friday's version of the online poll.
Although Obama has lost his large lead in polls in several swing states since the first debate, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll issued on Friday showed the Democrat ahead in Iowa by 8 percentage points and in Wisconsin by 6 percentage points.
A PPP survey showed Romney ahead by 1 percentage point in Iowa, as polls gave few certainties to the outcomes of the race beyond pointing to a likely tight finish.
A CNN/ORC International poll conducted after the second presidential debate showed 49 percent of likely voters in the battleground state of Florida supporting Romney and 48 percent supporting Obama.
In an election mainly driven by the economy, new state unemployment data issued on Friday could provide momentum for Obama in some of the most important battleground states.
Unemployment fell in September in pivotal states such as Florida, Nevada, Ohio and Iowa. The jobless rate in Virginia held steady at 5.9 percent for a third straight month.
At his rally in a northern Virginia suburb of Washington, Obama took his riff on amnesia to great length, describing "symptoms" that coincided with Romney's positions on abortion and taxes for the wealthy.
"If you say you'll protect a woman's right to choose, but you stand up at a primary debate and said that you'd be delighted to sign a law outlawing ... that right to choose in all cases - man, you've definitely got Romnesia," Obama said.
"If you say earlier in the year you're going to give tax cuts for the top 1 percent, and then in a debate you say, 'I don't know anything about giving tax cuts to rich folks,' you need to get a thermometer, take your temperature, because you've probably got Romnesia."
Obama said his 2010 healthcare law, which Republicans have dubbed "Obamacare" and deride as a government takeover of the $2.8 trillion US health system, is the cure for "Romnesia."
'WOMEN HAVEN'T FORGOTTEN'
Romney's campaign shot back that Obama, who has focused a lot of attention on women voters since the debate, has promoted policies that have hurt women particularly.
"Women haven't forgotten how we've suffered over the last four years in the Obama economy with higher taxes, higher unemployment and record levels of poverty," Virginia lawmaker Barbara Comstock said in a statement sent by the campaign.
"President Obama has failed to put forward a second-term agenda - and when you don't have a plan to run on, you stoop to scare tactics," Comstock added.
It is not the first time Obama has used a distorted version of his opponent's name to try to score political points and energize his liberal base. He has used the attack line "Romney Hood" to deride his rival's tax proposals, essentially saying they would rob ordinary Americans to help the rich.
The term "Romnesia" was not invented by the Obama campaign. "Romnesia" appeared on Facebook to mock the Republican presidential challenger and has been used by liberal blogs and newspaper columnists.
Obama later returned to the White House before departing for the presidential retreat Camp David in Maryland, where he will huddle with advisers David Plouffe, David Axelrod and others to prepare for Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy.
Romney arrived in Florida, where he will spend the weekend preparing for that final debate with members of his brain trust, including U.S. Senator Rob Portman and senior adviser Stuart Stevens.