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Romney aides outline plan of attack for after Republican convention

TAMPA, Fla. — Mitt Romney is set to launch the next stage of his campaign — the post-convention general election match-up against President Obama.

Romney aides, appearing at a panel hosted by ABC News and Yahoo in Tampa on Tuesday, made it clear they were prepared to hit the ground running after Romney accepts the party's nomination on Thursday night.

Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser for the Romney campaign, said after the convention, when people were in the "decision-making stage" of the election, they would be giving greater scrutiny to the race.

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"I think they're going to vote for change. And if you're voting for change, you're voting for Mitt Romney," he said.

Romney adviser Beth Myers agreed.

"People will start paying attention, and when they pay attention that works for us," she noted.

The aides, in outlining their strategy for the days after Tampa, said they believed the campaign would be able to aggressively target some states considered safely Democratic — including Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

They also noted they would have access to their general election funds and highlighted the advantage they have there. Romney has beaten Obama for the past three months in fundraising and also leads the president in cash on hand — $185.9 million to $123.7 million as of the end of July.

"The money disadvantage goes away," Fehrnstrom noted of the post-convention campaign.

But, in addition to the money, the Romney campaign is hoping to use momentum from the convention to aggressively target swing voters.

Neil Newhouse, the senior pollster for the Romney campaign, said they were looking to make gains with so-called "Wal-Mart moms" — white, suburban mothers from suburban swing states.

"They are a medical bill awe from falling off the financial cliff, and looking to someone who can speak to their economy," Newhouse said. "They've been dissatisfied so far with President Obama."

Also looming ahead are the three presidential debates, which Fehrnstrom said Romney had begun preparing for.

"The debates are going to be huge, we welcome those debates," he said.

And the campaign will also be able to let loose running mate Paul Ryan.

"We have Paul Ryan. It's no longer two against one. It's two against two. So it's an even match," Fehrnstrom said.

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, will bring into play younger voters, Catholics, and upper Midwesterners, he noted.

"This is a guy who is the first generation X-er to be on a ticket," Fehrnstrom said, adding that the Wisconsin lawmaker "brings some political energy to the ticket."

"[Ryan's selection] blows a hole in their strategy to win the election," Fehrnstrom added.

Myers, who ran Romney's search for a Number Two, also praised the vice presidential nominee for his campaign prowess, pointing to an event earlier this month in Florida where Ryan brought his mother.

"That was a great event. She was obviously a really proud mom," Meyers said, noting that highlighting her story had helped push back on Democratic attacks on the Ryan Medicare proposal.

"The Medicare issue — I think what they were thinking three weeks ago is not what they are thinking today," Meyers said.

Ashley O'Conner, Romney's directing of advertising, also previewed what sort of commercials would be flooding swing-state airwaves in the frantic final months of the election.

She predicted an "even mix" of ads touting Romney's credentials and criticizing the president's record, and said the campaign was looking to push attack ads — like a recent series on the president's changes to welfare reform — that introduced "new information" into the campaign.

The aides also predicted little end to the massive advertising effort undertaken by both sides.

"There have been more ads that ran in Columbus, Ohio, in July of this year than in October of 2008," Newhouse said.

Still, the Romney campaign emphasized they considered themselves underdogs — abet confident ones.

"He's the incumbent president," Newhouse said of Obama. "It's not easy beating incumbent presidents …. you just don't beat incumbents with all the power he has at his disposal easily."

One such example shadowed Tuesday's convention proceedings — the presidential response to the tropical storm battering the Gulf Coast. Obama dominated the airwaves the first morning of the Republican National Convention with his statement from the White House on the storm preparation efforts.

Romney aides downplayed the move.

"Certainly a storm of this magnitude deceives the attention of the president of the United States," said Fehrnstrom. "And I think the American people and certainly the people of the Gulf region want to hear from him."

And Romney's pollster also acknowledged the campaign had work to do with pinning the economic troubles squarely on the shoulders of the president.

"What voters tell us is, you know what, [Obama] doesn't get all the blame for it," Newhouse said, noting many continued to point the finger at former President George W. Bush.

But the campaign said they expected Romney to prevail in November, and that Tuesday's convention activities would be "the first building bloc toward that effort."

"You're going to learn more about Mitt Romney than I think anyone ever wanted to know," Newhouse said.