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In Sandy's wake, candidates back to aggressive campaigning


President Barack Obama leaned on the power of incumbency in his first campaign event after Hurricane Sandy, striking a unifying tone at a late-morning rally in Wisconsin while ridiculing GOP nominee Mitt Romney's effort to seize the mantle of "change." 

"After four years as president, you know me by now," said Obama, who jogged down the stairs of Air Force One to the waiting crowd in Green Bay.

President Obama will be going to Ohio every day before the election – a state where he is currently polling ahead of Mitt Romney. GOP contender Romney will be stopping only twice in Ohio and then twice in New Hampshire where he appears to be in the lead. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

"Let me tell you, Wisconsin: we know what change looks like," the bomber jacket-clad president said at another point in the speech. "And what the governor is offering sure ain’t change."

The president and Romney each turned to their closing arguments for voters, just five days before Election Day and in the wake of a hurricane-induced campaign pause.

Speaking Thursday morning in Virginia, where he hadn't appeared in 15 days, Romney appealed to themes that have dominated his campaign for months. The former Massachusetts governor argued that the nation's economy couldn't withstand another four years of a Democrat in the White House.

A day after he toured storm-stricken New Jersey, President Obama resumed his campaign with an event in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

And Romney revived his experience in the private sector as his chief qualification versus Obama, seizing on a throwaway line from the president during a weekend interview on MSNBC about naming a "secretary of business."

"He’s got to find something to suggest it’s going to better over the next four years. And so he came up with an idea last week which his he’s going to create the department of business," Romney told a crowd of 3,000 in Roanoke. "I don’t think adding a new chair in his cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street."

He added: "We don’t need a secretary of business to understand business we need a president who understands business, and I do."

GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney hits the campaign trail in Roanoke, Virginia criticizing President Obama's economic and energy policies.

The campaign resumed its aggressive tenor on Thursday after a more subdued tone in the wake of this week's hurricane. Romney and Obama's aides did battle in the press over the question of which candidate has momentum on his side entering the home stretch.

A series of NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls released early Thursday suggested the president has an advantage in Iowa, but faces tighter contests with Romney in New Hampshire and Wisconsin (a reliably blue state which Republicans have sought to put in play this cycle).

In his bid to overtake the president, Romney revived his assertion that he was the candidate of "change" -- taking direct aim at the sentiment that propelled Obama's 2008 election.

Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images

President Barack Obama waves at supporters during a campaign rally at Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on November 1, 2012.

"We need real change. For real change we’re going to have to take a different course," Romney said. "And I think that’s what Americans are going to do on Nov. 6."

That assertion earned Romney a rebuke from Obama, who accused his Republican opponent of masquerading familiar Republican proposals as new and fresh.

"In the closing weeks of this campaign, Gov. Romney has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up these very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we've been cleaning up after for the past four years," Obama said.

David Goldman / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves as he takes the stage for a campaign event at a window and door factory, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, in Roanoke, Va.

The president launched into an almost wistful look back at his first term in arguing his case for a second. He acknowledged that not all Americans agreed with his positions, but, "You know what I believe, you know where I stand."

Obama's event also allowed the president, in many ways, the opportunity to remind voters that is the acting commander in chief, including his more upbeat opening in Wisconsin talking about the hurricane.

"We've also been inspired these past few days -- because when disaster strikes, we see America at its best. All the petty differences that consume us in normal times, all seem to melt away," he said. "There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm -- they're just fellow Americans."

Reuters, Getty Images

In the final push in the 2012 presidential election, candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama make their last appeals to voters.

The storm continued to cast a pall over the campaign, though the sharp rhetoric returned to normal. But Ann Romney reached a moment of levity in Ohio when asking voters to donate to the Red Cross via text message, using a number that became associated with one of her husband's Republican primary foes.

"What does that remind you of? Herman Cain's 9-9-9!" she said to laughter. "You can remember that."