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President Barack Obama is making his quest for a second term official with rallies in Ohio and Virginia.

By JULIE PACE 05/05/12 09:45 AM ET AP

WASHINGTON — In campaign mode for months, President Barack Obama is making his quest for a second term official with rallies in Ohio and Virginia while casting Republican rival Mitt Romney as a flip-flopping protector of the rich.

The events Saturday at two universities, Ohio State and Virginia Commonwealth, were billed as the official kickoff of Obama’s re-election bid, even though he’s been solidly engaged in his campaign and over a year ago filed the necessary paperwork to run again.

During the events, the president planned to try to convince voters that his policies have put the economy on more solid footing despite fresh evidence that the job market remains weak. He also was expected to try to define Romney as a candidate peddling failed policies for both the economy and national security.

Obama has headlined dozens of fundraisers around the country as his campaign tries to build a solid money advantage over Romney. In his official White House travels, often to the most contested states, the president has pitched policy positions that fit neatly into the campaign’s central theme of economic fairness. They range from a millionaires’ tax to freezing student loan interest rates.

Official campaign rallies can free Obama up to take more direct aim at Romney. Until now, Obama has used Romney’s name sparingly, often choosing instead to cloak his criticisms of Romney in attacks against generic Republicans.

Some Democrats saw Saturday’s rallies as a chance for Obama to put Republicans on notice that he plans to be an aggressor in the race

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