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Romney surges in narrowing White House race on back of debate performance

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio -- Mitt Romney supporters taunted Barack Obama with chants of “four more weeks” as their candidate surged into the lead in U.S. opinion polls, propelled by his debate win last week.

With both candidates campaigning in perennial kingmaker state Ohio, top Obama aides put a brave face on the president's slide, insisting they had always known his re-election bid would be tough.

A flurry of new polls out Tuesday showed the delayed impact of Romney's debate triumph last week in Denver.

For the first time since he accepted the Republican Party nomination, Romney topped the widely-read poll of polls conducted by the RealClearPolitics website, albeit by only 0.7 points.

He led Obama by two points in daily tracking polls by Gallup and Investors Business Daily, but the pair were tied in another tracking poll, by Rasmussen.

“Today, there are 28 days before the election,” Romney told a crowd of about 12,000 people in Cuyahoga Falls, his largest rally to date in Ohio.

“I think the right chant ought to be for them: 'Four more weeks! Four more weeks!'” he added, in a play on the “Four more years” chant reserved for incumbents.

The raucous supporters obliged, and Romney followed up by letting them know just how important the first debate was.

“I actually think the people have heard what he had to say,” Romney said of Obama, “and it's time for them to see him leave the White House and to say goodbye to him on Nov. 6.”

Romney's rise in the polls in part reflected his tack toward the political center during the debate, a shift he continued on Tuesday by telling an Iowa newspaper he had no plans to introduce legislation restricting abortion.

Romney did say, however, that he would restore a law ended by Obama that prohibits non-profit groups receiving federal government funds from providing abortions in other countries.

Meanwhile at an Obama rally in Columbus, Ohio, the large crowd chanted “Four more years! Four more years!” after the president took the stage.

“I need you ready to go to vote because we've got some work to do. We've got an election to win,” Obama said.

“Everything that we fought for in 2008 is on the line in 2012.”

Despite the clear bounce in Romney support, national polls are only one reflection of the race, and the campaigns are more interested in the eight or so swing states that will decide the election.

Obama is up in most battlegrounds, though full data is yet to emerge on local races following the debate.

And in a welcome respite for the president's camp, struggling to shake off the fallout of last week's listless debate performance, a CNN/ORC poll showed Obama holding steady in Ohio, leading 51 to 47 percent among likely voters.

No Republican has ever become president without winning Ohio.

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