Mitt Romney and Barack Obama sharpened their messages on the economy on Thursday in the battleground state of Virginia, appearing in communities that illustrate the state's heavy reliance on military spending for business and jobs.
Obama campaigned near Virginia Beach while Romney spoke at a rally in Springfield, just down the road from the Pentagon.
Polls give Obama a narrow lead in the Old Dominion, which usually trends Republican but that he won in 2008.
Virginia weathered the overall economic downturn better than most other states due to its heavy concentration of federal and military employment but its cities and towns are now nervous about uncertainty surrounding defense spending.
But just as the state has benefited from increased military and security investment over the past decade, Virginia would be hit hard if steep proposed budget cuts aimed at reducing the federal deficit take hold next year absent a deal by Congress to soften them.
Virginia is home to numerous defense contractors and military installations that could lose over 130,000 jobs if a spending deal is not reached, according to an industry study by George Mason University in July.
Describing the cuts, as a "gun-to-your-head" approach originally proposed by the White House and passed by Congress, the Republican nominee told a "Veterans for Romney" event that the impact on Virginia would be "devastating."
Review military spending
He also cautioned the world was too "dangerous" to chip away at U.S. military power.
"I want a military so strong, nobody wants to test it," Romney said, evoking Ronald Reagan by saying he believed in "peace through strength."
Romney said he would review excess military spending to make the Defense Department more efficient and add 100,000 active duty service members. He also pledged to use the money saved in the defense budget to care for veterans.
Obama vs. Romney: How they'd handle the $7 trillion fiscal cliff
At a concert venue near Virginia Beach, Obama contrasted his economic plan outlined in a campaign ad airing in key battleground states.
Romney, Obama said, "Doubled-down on trickle down," policies that "created the crisis in the first place."
Obama said his plan focuses on tax cuts for the middle class and "growing the economy from the middle out."
"Today I believe that as a nation we are moving forward again," Obama said. "We are not where we need to be. Not yet. We have got a lot more folks who have to get back to work. We have got a lot more work to do to make the middle class secure again. Now the question is who is better for you?"
But in a surprise, revised economic data released on Thursday showed slower second-quarter growth than originally thought.
Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic health, grew at an annual rate of 1.3% from April to June, the Commerce Department said, slower than the 1.7% rate last reported in August.
Virginia polls suggest race could be close
Polling suggests that while Obama has the lead in Virginia, it could be a close race. In two out of three recent polls, the margin of error, coupled with the percentage of undecided voters, leaves the state up for grabs.
A CNN Poll of Polls of likely voters released on September 20 shows Romney behind Obama by six points. Three other polls show an Obama lead, but within the polls' sampling error. A Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll shows Obama leading Romney by four points; a Washington Post poll in the same week shows Obama leading by eight points; and an NBC News/WSJ/Marist Poll shows Obama leading Romney by five points.
But the NBC News/WSJ/Marist poll and the Quinnipiac/CBS/New York Times poll show 5% and 3% of the respondents saying they're undecided. The Washington Post poll did not list undecided voters.
Obama's 2008 victory made Virginia -- historically a Republican stronghold -- a battleground. No Democratic presidential candidate had won the state since Lyndon Johnson's landslide in 1964.
Obama and Romney went head-to-head on in Ohio on Wednesday, stumping around the state and talking to voters about China, taxes, and jobs.
Both sought to illustrate what the next four years would be like under their leadership as new polls indicated Obama exceeding 50% support among likely voters in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. Those are all swing states that combined will account for nearly a quarter of the electoral votes needed to win the White House.
Surveys suggest that Romney has lost his edge on the economy, the centerpiece of his campaign to highlight slow growth, trade tensions and stubbornly high unemployment under Obama's leadership.
The two square off in their first debate next week in Denver.