A flurry of polls showing widening leads for US President Barack Obama has heaped pressure on Mitt Romney to use their first head-to-head debate next week to launch a major comeback bid.
Fresh surveys on Wednesday showed Mr Obama cementing his advantage in the key state battlegrounds that will decide the US election on 6 November, and putting clear distance between himself and his Republican challenger nationwide.
Mr Romney's fading numbers appeared to reflect damage from the release last week of a secretly filmed video in which he said 47% of Americans would vote for Obama because they were dependent on government and paid no taxes, AFP reports.
The former Massachusetts governor softened his tone on Wednesday, saying his "heart aches" for people struggling to find work and the government "has a role" in taking care of people who are hurting.
But he also said: "We're going to insist these people have the opportunity for work if they can - if they're able bodied - because we're not going to create a society of dependence on government."