WEST CHESTER, Ohio — Mitt Romney kicked off Friday with the ringing public endorsement from Green Bay Packers football legend Bart Starr and ended with a rally that featured musician Kid Rock and more than a dozen of the nation’s most high-profile Republican figures.
The events bookended another stop at a Ohio manufacturer and were part of the GOP presidential ticket’s fourth quarter call to action and one of Mr. Romney’s final chances to deliver a closing argument in key swing states that could very well swing the outcome of next week’s presidential election.
At stop after stop, the former Massachusetts governor asked voters to “walk with me” and gave a muscular critique of the Obama administration, saying that the Democrat has fallen “very short” of following through on the promise of change that he drove home on the stump four years ago. The nation, Mr. Romney said, does not have to “settle” for more of the same.
Mr. Romney also suggested that Mr. Obama has steered the nation toward “another recession” and said that the 2012 election can be boiled down to a simple question: “Do you want more of the same or do you want real change?”
“President Obama promised change, but he could not deliver it. I promise change, and I have a record of achieving it,” Mr. Romney said.
Mr. Romney said that he will do the same thing in Washington that he did as governor of Massachusetts and that Mr. Obama has failed to do during his first term: Reach across the aisle to spin deficits into surpluses, to reduce the unemployment rate and to increase take-home pay.
“Accomplishing real change is not something I just talk about — it is something I have done. And it is what I will do when I am president of the United States,” Mr. Romney said.
Along the way, he vowed to scrap “Obamacare,” ease the regulations on oil and natural gas drilling on federal lands and waters and to put the nation on a path to a balanced federal budget.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith called Mr. Romney’s pledge of “real change” laughable, and said that the misleading ads related to the federal government’s bailout of the auto industry that the Romney camp is running in Ohio is more proof that Americans should be wary of his claims of bipartisanship.
“We know that’s not true: All Mitt Romney would do is bring back the failed policies of the past that crashed the economy and punished the middle class in the first place,” Ms. Smith said. “Here’s the truth: Mitt Romney will say or do anything to win, but Americans just can’t afford to let him take us backward.”
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, also weighed in, saying the notion that Democrats will work with Mr. Romney to pass his “severely conservative agenda” – much of which he said the Senate already has rejected – is a “fantasy.”
“Senate Democrats are committed to defending the middle class, and we will do everything in our power to defend them against Mitt Romney’s Tea Party agenda,” Mr. Reid said in a statement.
The Romney campaign plane touched down in Wisconsin Friday morning, less than an hour after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a new jobs report that showed 171,000 jobs were added in October, but that the national unemployment rate ticked up a tenth of a percentage point to 7.9 percent.
It marked the second month in a row that the nation’s unemployment rate had fallen below 8 percent. Prior to that, the national jobless rate had been above 8 percent for 43 straight months under Mr. Obama, a key talking point for Republicans.
The report thrust the jobs issue back to the front burner of the presidential election and Mr. Romney reminded the crowd here that the unemployment rate is higher then when Mr. Obama took office.
The Romney camp also responded in a press release in which Mr. Romney said that the jobs numbers are “a sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill” and that the policies embraced by the Obama administration have “crushed” the middle class.
“He has been successful in every endeavor he has pursued, and I have every confidence that, if elected president, he would continue that remarkable level of success,” Mr. Star said.
The massive event here in at the Square at Union Centre drew about 18,000 people, according to local police estimates, and served as a political pageant of sorts for the who’s who of the Republican party. And many of them, including Mr. Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, treated Mr. Obama like a political piñata.
Mr. Ryan said that Mr. Obama’s promise of “hope and change” has rung hollow, training his fire at what he said was his failure to fulfill his pledge to cut the deficit in half, bring bipartisanship to Washington and to get more people out of the unemployment lines.
“We have a jobs crises,” Mr. Ryan said. “Wouldn’t it be nice to actually have a job creator in the White House for a change.”
House Speaker John Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the nation has a chance to “save the American dream” and that voters believed Mr. Obama when he said in 2008 that he would “turn things around.”
“He talked about hope, he talked about post-partisan politics, and all we got from the American people now is their hope for change.
The Ohio Republican asked and answered his own question. “Can we afford four more years like that?” he said. “Hell no, we can’t!”
Meanwhile, Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that instead of trying to put the best face on the newest jobs numbers, Mr. Obama “should resign,” and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee, said that Mr. Obama was “AWOL” when it came to protecting U.S. diplomats during the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya that led to the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three of his staffers.
Poll show that Mr. Obama sits atop a slim lead in Ohio, a state that many political observers see as a must-win for Mr. Romney. No Republican has won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.
In the waning days of the election, the Romney campaign also is claiming that they are expanding the electoral map into states that were seen as friendly turf for Mr. Obama months ago and have made the case that winning Wisconsin — won handily by Mr. Obama four years ago — is within reach.
Some of the optimism derives from the fact that Mr. Ryan is a native son.
“It’s good to be in the home state of the next vice president of the United States. Next to Ann Romney, Paul Ryan is the best choice I ever made,” Mr. Romney said at his stop in Wisconsin Friday, referring to his wife.
In addition, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who campaigned with Mr. Romney on Friday, fended off a recall effort earlier this year with the help of a major GOP grassroots effort to organize their ranks across the state.
“You take all the work that was done earlier this year when we made four and a half million voter contacts in a state of 5.7 million,” Mr. Walker said Friday in an interview on “Fox and Friends.” “We had tens of thousands of volunteers helps us in my election earlier this year. That excitement continues on.”
Polls, though, show Mr. Obama leads Mr. Romney in Wisconsin among registered and likely voters who have grown more optimistic about the direction of the country. Polls show that votes also see Mr. Obama as a more favorable candidate and better equipped to handle the economy.
Wisconsin is a key piece of the puzzle for the Romney campaign — particularly if Mr. Obama wins Ohio.
But history suggests he faces an uphill battle. Voters here have not supported a Republican for president since they swung their support behind President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Mr. Romney plans to spend Saturday in New Hampshire, Iowa and Colorado. He plans on Sunday to hold campaign events in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.