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Romney pledges ‘real change’ that will end partisan gridlock

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CLEVELAND — Darting across eight battleground states, Mitt Romney spent the final weekend of the presidential race delivering a muscular critique of the Obama administration and saying he is uniquely qualified to end the partisan gridlock in Washington that threatens to push the country into a double-dip recession.

Mr. Romney, urging his flag-waving supporters to "walk with me" toward a "new beginning," said Mr. Obama walked away from the promises he made on the stump four years ago.

"The question of this election comes down to this: Do you want more of the same, or do you want real change?" Mr. Romney said. "President Obama promised change, but he could not deliver change. Now I promise change, and I have a record of achieving real change."

The Republican presidential nominee's frenetic schedule is evidence of just how tight Tuesday's contest is, and how many major states are considered up for grabs.

Over the weekend, Mr. Romney hit Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Florida. He spoke in a sprawling amphitheater, on factory floors and inside airport hangars, and deployed some star power, including NASCAR legend Richard Petty, National Football League Hall-of-Famer Bart Starr and musician Kid Rock, the rocker behind Mr. Romney's campaign song "Born Free."

For Mr. Romney, the election marks the culmination of a six-year effort aimed at winning the White House — a feat that his father, Michigan Gov. George Romney, failed to accomplish in his own 1968 bid for the presidency.

Mr. Romney paid lip service — a single sentence — to the private-sector experience that he often touted before conservatives during the bloody Republican primary season. In the final days of the campaign, he focused instead on the record he compiled as governor of Massachusetts.

Over the course of a single term in Massachusetts, he said, he accomplished something that Mr. Obama has not been able to do in Washington: reach across the aisle.

"I learned as governor of my state of Massachusetts that the best achievements are shared achievement," Mr. Romney said. "I learned that respect and good will go a long way, and are usually returned in kind. That's how I'll conduct myself as president. I'll bring people together doing big things for the common good. I won't just represent one party; I will represent one nation."

Obama campaign manager Lis Smith said Mr. Romney's claim is bogus.

"Mitt Romney can't be trusted to work across the aisle as president because he's never done it before. Despite his claims in the final days of this race, Romney refused to work with Democrats as governor," Ms. Smith said. "Mitt Romney's proven he's willing to say anything to win, but the American people understand Romney will never bring 'real change' — just the same failed policies that created the economic mess in the first place."

Outlining his plans to deliver "real change from Day One," Mr. Romney pledged to ease regulations on small businesses and open federal lands and federal waters to more oil and natural gas exploration and drilling. He said he would boost trade with Latin America, label China a currency manipulator and promote school choice.

Mr. Romney also said he will send Congress two proposals: the Retraining Reform Act to strengthen job training, and the Down Payment on Fiscal Sanity Act that calls for a 5 percent cut to discretionary spending that is not related to security.

If the president is re-elected, Mr. Romney said, Mr. Obama will "jeopardize our national security as well as kill jobs" by reducing military spending. He also predicted that the president would continue to ignore, blame and attack Republicans — setting into motion a repeat of last year's showdown over the nation's borrowing limit, which put Congress on the brink of defaulting on the nation's debt.

The message resonated with the crowd, which swelled to more than 20,000 at a campaign stop in Ohio and 18,000 in the Denver suburbs.

"He is trying to bring everyone together," said Ruben Rodriguez, 50, a retired Army infantryman after a Romney appearance in Colorado Springs. "He is not trying to divide. That is an attractive message.

"I believe that Barack Obama is splitting the nation in half between the haves and don't-haves," he said. "I believe that the nation has to be able to prosper in order to uplift the people that don't have, so they have the opportunity that those people don't have and he can do it."

At a campaign rally outside Columbus, Ohio, Keith Stokes, 89, said he is worried that he will be forced to give up his 160-acre farm because the inheritance tax — otherwise known as the "death tax" — is scheduled to rise from 35 percent with a $5 million exemption per estate to 55 percent with a $1 million exemption at the beginning of next year.

"I don't know if I should die on Dec. 31 or Jan. 1," Mr. Stokes said bluntly. "It has to be changed, and Romney says he wants to do away with the death tax. That would be good. Do away with it. We are going to lose the farm."

Mr. Romney told supporters Sunday that "we're almost there" and pleaded with them for "one final push."

"We've known a lot of short nights and long days, and now we're close. The door to a brighter future is there. It's open, waiting for us," he said.

"I need your vote, I need your work, I need your help. Walk with me. Let's walk together. Let's start anew."

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