NORTH CANTON, Ohio — Pouncing on new modest economic growth numbers, GOP nominee Mitt Romney pounded home the message at a couple of campaign stops Friday that President Obama has failed to deliver on his promise to revive the economy and to nurture the bipartisanship necessary to confront the nation’s problems.
Speaking in the critical swing states of Iowa and Ohio, Mr. Romney derided Mr. Obama for blaming his poor economic record on the recession he inherited from predecessor George W. Bush, saying the Democrat also inherited the “most productive and innovative nation in history” and a “people who have always risen to the occasion.”
“Despite all that he inherited, President Obama did not repair our economy, he did not save Medicare and Social Security, he did not tame the spending and borrowing, he did not reach across the aisle to bring us together,” Mr. Romney told the 2,000-plus people who turned out in Ames, Iowa for what his campaign touted as a major economic speech. “Nor did he stand up to China’s trade practices, or deliver on his promise to remake our relations with the Muslim world, where anti-American extremism is on the rise.”
“What he inherited wasn’t the only problem. What he did with what he inherited made the problem worse,” Mr. Romney said.
The Obama campaign responded that Mr. Romney’s speech was filled with “dishonest attacks and empty promises of change, but no new policy.
“That’s because all Mitt Romney has is a one-point economic plan that he’s been running on for two years: The very wealthy get to play by a very different set of rules than everyone else,” said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman. “Unfortunately for working Americans, his tax math doesn’t add up without raising middle-class taxes and independent economists agree his jobs ‘plan’ wouldn’t create jobs and could slow the recovery. Romney has started promising ‘big change,’ but the only change Romney’s offering is to take us back to the same failed policies that crashed our economy in the first place.”
Team Obama also accused Mr. Romney of misleading voters at a rally Thursday in Defiance, Ohio, when he told the more than 10,000 people in attendance that he had read a story about how Chrysler – one of the car companies bailed out by the Obama administration – was considering moving its Jeep operations to China.
Chrysler officials disavowed the claim, saying it has “no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China,” and the Obama camp said it showed that Mr. Romney will say anything to win votes.
“My reaction is that Mitt Romney is a desperate man,” former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a top Obama surrogate, said during an appearance on MSNBC. “He knows he’s losing Ohio. If he loses Ohio he’s losing the election.”
Mr. Romney continued to attack Mr. Obama’s record here at a victory rally on the North Canton High School baseball field, where he was joined by his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan and Patricia Heaton, the Cleveland-born actress from the CBS television sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
The Republican presidential nominee plans to be in Florida on Saturday, and in the coming days has campaign stops planned for Virginia and Wisconsin, Mr. Ryan’s home state.
The former Massachusetts governor is trying to keep the momentum going that he carried out of his three debate showdowns this month with Mr. Obama. Late last week. he edged past Mr. Obama in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls for the first time.
In the key battleground states, though, the men are basically running neck-and-neck. Polls say Mr. Obama leads by slim margins in Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Mr. Romney, meanwhile, is running slightly ahead in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. In Colorado, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are basically tied.
Asked whether he was concerned that Mr. Romney had peaked too early, Eric Fehrnstrom, a top adviser, said briskly, “No.”
“We are riding a wave and we have not hit the beach yet,” he said, adding that “it is going to be a tight race right to the very end.”
The speech here at Kinzler Construction Services coincided with news reports that said Kevin Kinzler, the owner of the company, had received a $1.25 million loan from the Small Business Administration through the stimulus package in 2009.
The speech also followed the quarterly report the Commerce Department that showed the nation’s economy grew at a slightly faster clip of 2 percent annual growth over the summer — better than the 1.3 percent annual rate it posted in the spring and better than many economists had been expecting.
The report is seen as welcome, though far from stellar, news for Mr. Obama. Mr. Romney, though, dismissed the latest growth numbers in Friday’s speech as “the latest round of discouraging economic news.”
“After the stimulus was passed, the White House promised the economy would now be growing at 4.3 percent, over twice as fast,” Mr. Romney told the crowd. “Slow economic growth means slow job growth and declining take-home pay. This is what four years of President Obama’s policies have produced.”
Despite being billed by aides as a “major” economic speech, Mr. Romney stuck close to the same retooled stump speech that he unveiled Thursday in Ohio, arguing that Mr. Obama represents the “status quo” and the GOP ticket offers real change in the form of lower taxes, less business regulation and more military spending.
“This election is a choice between the status quo — going forward with the same policies of the last four years — or instead, choosing real change, change that offers promise, promise that the future will be better than the past,” Mr. Romney said.