AMES, Iowa — Saying the nation is at a critical turning point, Mitt Romney on Friday repeated his newest campaign mantra, summoning Americans to shift course and usher in the kind of “real change” he said is needed to meet the challenges this country faces.
With 11 days until Election Day, the Republican presidential nominee journeyed to a construction company here in the battleground state that fueled President Obama’s 2008 victory to lay out his closing argument to voters. Saying that the president had become distracted by “small, shiny objects,” Romney said he and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) offer the “leadership that these times demand.”
The speech had been billed as a significant economic policy address. But Romney did not roll out any new policy proposals nor delve into the specifics of his plans to help the economy. Instead, he presented a rhetorical repackaging of his usual campaign agenda, building on the “change” narrative he introduced Thursday in Ohio and blaming Obama for partisan stalemates.
“Four years ago, candidate Obama spoke to the scale of the times. Today, he shrinks from it,” Romney said. “The president’s campaign falls far short of the magnitude of these times. And the presidency of the last four years has fallen far short of the promises of the last campaign. Four years ago, America voted for a post-partisan president, but they have seen the most partisan and political of presidents and a Washington in gridlock because of it.”
Romney promised to work across the aisle and meet regularly with Democratic leaders, to change policies that he said would make the next century an “American Century” — with greater economic growth, more jobs and higher take-home pay for the middle class.
“What this requires is change — change from the course of the last four years,” Romney said, repeating his message from a rally in Defiance, Ohio, the day before. “It requires that we put aside the small and the petty and demand the scale of change we deserve. We need real change, big change. That time has come.”
Romney acknowledged that Obama inherited a troubled economy amid a financial collapse. But he argued that Obama also inherited the most productive and innovative nation in history, the largest economy in the world and a people used to rising to the occasion to meet difficult challenges. The president’s “trickle-down government policies,” Romney said, had failed the nation.
“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,” Romney told the outdoor crowd of about 2,200 people. “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,” Romney said. “What he did with what he inherited made the problem worse.”
The Obama campaign took aim at Romney’s remarks, calling them “dishonest attacks and empty promises of change.” Spokeswoman Lis Smith argued in a statement that the Republican challenger’s economic plan would unfairly favor the wealthiest Americans while slowing 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,” Smith said. “That’s not the change we need.”
Romney’s 22-minute speech was delivered with the aid of teleprompters on a frigid October day. Advisers said the Ames address would become the core of Romney’s stump speech as he returns to Ohio for a rally Friday night and onto Florida and Virginia this weekend. Later in the day, Romney canceled a scheduled trip to Virginia Beach on Sunday, when forecasters predict a severe storm will hit part of the East Coast. He will still attend rallies in Haymarket, Va., and Richmond that day.
In Iowa, Romney spoke in broad outlines about his plans to cut government spending and rein in debt, to achieve North American energy independence by investing in coal, oil and natural gas, and to help businesses grow by loosening government regulations and lowering tax rates.
“This election is about big things like the education of our children, the value of our homes, the take-home pay from our jobs, the price of the gasoline we buy and the choices we have in our health care,” Romney said. “It’s also about the big things that determine these things, like the growth of the economy, the strength of our military, our dependence on foreign oil and America’s leadership in the world.
“After all the false promises of recovery and all the waiting,” he added, “we’ll finally see help for America’s middle class. It is about time.”