(AP) — President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney are working feverishly for an increasingly smaller but crucial slice of the electorate – white, working-class voters.

These clock-punching voters – from Iowa’s tiny manufacturing cities to Virginia coal country to pockets of Ohio reliant on the auto industry – are considered the potential tipping point in battleground states that will decide the winner on Nov. 6. These voters are also critical to turning less competitive states such as Michigan into suddenly swing states in the final stretch.

Romney is trying to expand what polls show is an advantage for the Republican while Obama hopes to narrow the gap. Both candidates are trying to pit these voters against their opponent by stoking a sense of economic and social unfairness, and also by calling on surrogates with stronger ties to these voters. It’s why Romney has seized on Obama’s decision to give states greater flexibility on welfare work requirements and why Obama turned to former President Bill Clinton, long popular with working-class voters, to make the case for his second-term bid.

“In the richest country in the history of the world, this Obama economy has crushed the middle class,” Romney said in accepting the Republican presidential nomination.

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