President Barack Obama turned his opponent's name into an ailment today, accusing rival Mitt Romney of suffering from "Romnesia" for emphasising 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 October 3, during which he sounded a moderate note on healthcare reform and the need for government regulation - highlights of Obama's platform.
After a lacklustre appearance in that debate, the president has given fiery retorts since then, both in the second debate on October 16 - which many observers said Obama won - and on the campaign trail.
Obama told a crowd of some 9000 in the battleground state of Virginia that Romney was 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.
Obama took the 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," he 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."
Romney's campaign shot back that Obama, who has focused a lot of attention on women voters since the debate, had promoted policies that 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," said Virginia lawmaker Barbara Comstock 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," she said.
Obama has lost his large lead in polls in several swing states since the first debate, but a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll out today shows the Democrat ahead in Iowa by eight points and Wisconsin by six points.
Reuters/Ipsos polling data shows Obama ahead among likely women voters nationally by 48.5 percent to 42.1 percent, down from a lead of almost 12 percentage points in the week to September 23.