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Defiant Romney says Obama is trying to 'fool' voters




DENVER-- A defiant Mitt Romney refused to concede he is running as an underdog in the crucial battleground states that define the presidential contest, and accused President Obama of distorting his positions and trying to "fool" the American people.

Brian Snyder / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Denver, Colorado September 23, 2012.

Asked if he was now running as the underdog after a brutal two-week stretch of the campaign that included press accounts of infighting within his campaign, a leaked tape of him making controversial remarks at a fundraiser, and a slew of polls placing him slightly, but consistently behind President Obama in nearly every battleground state, Romney brushed off the question.

"I don’t pay a lot of attention to the day-to-day polls. They change a great deal," Romney said. "I know in the coming six weeks they’re very unlikely to remain where they are today. I’ll either go up or I’ll go down. It’s unlikely that we’ll just stay the same."

Pressed as to why those same polls showed him trailing in the various states - including Colorado, where he'll campaign Sunday night and Monday - Romney blamed President Obama's campaign for what he called "inaccurate" attack ads, which he complained mischaracterized his position on issues ranging from the auto bailout to abortion.

"They've been very aggressive in their attacks both on a personal basis and on a policy basis," Romney said. "I think as time goes on, people will realize that those attacks are not accurate and we'll be able to have a choice which is based upon each other’s accurate views for the country."

NBC's Peter Alexander spoke with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Denver about the upcoming debates, world affairs, and if it is possible to change the tone in Washington.

Later asked if he could win the upcoming October 3rd debate against President Obama, Romney returned to this vein, choosing not to answer the question directly, but to say that at least after the debates he could stop the president from trying to "fool people" into believing untrue things about him and his policy positions.

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"I think the president will not be able to continue to mischaracterize my pathway, and so I’ll continue to describe mine, he will describe his, and people will make a choice. That’s the great thing about democracy. I’m not going to try to fool people into thinking he believes things he doesn’t. He’s trying to fool people into thinking that I think things that I don’t. And that ends at the debates," Romney said.

But Romney, who regularly complains about ads by the president's campaign that he says are false and should be taken down, has also had multiple ads by his own campaign rated false by independent fact checkers, including recent attacks on welfare reform, which remain on the air.

The former Massachusetts governor also addressed his languid public campaign schedule of late, which has focused largely on fundraising and debate prep, by again blaming the president for disregarding federal campaign matching funds in 2008 and again this presidential cycle, forcing him to do the same.

"He’s doing it again this time, so to be competitive it means a lot more fundraising than I think I would like," Romney said. "I’d far rather be spending my time out in the key swing states campaigning, door-to-door if necessary, but in rallies and various meetings, but fundraising is a part of politics when you’re opponent decides not to live by the federal spending limits."

Finally, as Romney landed in Denver, where in just 10 days he will face off with President Obama in the first of three presidential debates, Romney attempted to shift expectations of an outright victory toward something more modest.

"I can’t tell you winning and losing. I mean, he’s president of the United States, he’s a very effective speaker. I hope I’ll be able to describe my positions in a way that is accurate and the people will make a choice as to which path they want to choose," Romney said.

"I don't expect this to be a contest of who can say the cutest phrase, I think it's a contest of very different directions for the country," he added later.