Government spending and debt are emerging as a campaign tug-of-war.
Republican Mitt Romney blames President Barack Obama for a "prairie fire of debt." Obama calls the charge a "cowpie of distortion." Both candidates are reaching for unaligned, independent voters anxious about who's going to get stuck with the bill.
Spending and debt now rank as high on the worry scale as lack of jobs. And it has direct appeal to independents who could decide the election in about a half-dozen states being heavily contested by both campaigns.
Obama has taken a populist tone on reforming Wall Street and taxing corporations and the wealthy. But his defensive crouch on debt and spending reflect a hard reality: Polls consistently show voters, including independents, placing more trust in Romney to handle the debt.