WEST ALLIS, Wis. – After a presidential election season that has centered so much on the negative and the trivial, Republican nominee Mitt Romney entered the final stretch here Friday sounding a note of optimism and grand purpose as he laid out a path he said would “lead America to a better place.”

President Obama “says it has to be this way; I say it can’t be this way. He’s offering excuses; I've got a plan. He’s hoping we’ll settle; I can’t wait for us to get started,” Romney told a crowd of 4,000 roaring supporters. “Americans don’t settle. We build, we aspire, we listen to that voice inside us that says, ‘We can do better.’ A better job. A better life for our kids. A bigger, better country.” 

Romney’s 28-minute speech here, which advisers said is the message he will deliver to voters as he barnstorms the battleground states this weekend, had more loft even than the one he gave in accepting his party’s nomination at the Republican National Convention.

“I do not believe this is a moment when our big dreams will be satisfied with a small agenda,” Romney said. “I will lead America to a better place, where confidence in the future is assured, not questioned. This is not a time for America to settle. We’re four days away from a fresh start, four days away from the first day of a new beginning.”

The speech that political professionals call the closing argument is always a tricky balance aimed at inspiring the base to put their hearts into the last few days, but also to win over the few voters who are still making up their minds.

Romney tried to do that, leveling sharp attacks on Obama’s record and leadership style. Romney said Obama “promised change, but he could not deliver it,” accusing him of wasting time blaming former President George W. Bush and ignoring and attacking Republicans in Congress. Romney said the president had waged “war” on the coal, oil and natural gas industries, and that he sees business as “a necessary evil.”

“I’m not just going to take office on January 20th; I’m going to take responsibility for that office as well,” Romney said.

On a day when Obama pointed to the second straight month of unemployment below 8 percent as evidence that the country was making real progress, Romney warned that, “unless we change course, we may well be looking at another recession.”

Romney positioned himself as the agent of change, much as Obama did four years ago. In his closing argument in the last election, Obama declared that Republicans offered nothing but “the same old, same old.” And here on Friday, Romney charged that Obama’s second-term agenda “could be boiled down to four words: More of the same.”

Four years ago, Obama rallied supporters by saying, “We can’t afford these same political games and tactics that put us against each other, make us afraid of one another.” And Romney on Friday said, “I will reach out to both sides of the aisle. I will bring people together, doing big things for the common good. I won’t just represent one party; I’ll represent one nation. I’ll try to show the best of America.”

Romney chose to debut his closing argument here in Wisconsin, a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984 but whose 10 electoral votes now are central to both campaign’s calculus.

Romney hopes the deep ground organization Republican Gov. Scott Walker built here earlier this year to fend off a recall effort – as well as his selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) as his vice presidential running mate – will pay dividends at the polls next Tuesday.

And Romney’s effort may have received a boost here when legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr endorsed him, quoting Vince Lombari in describing the leadership attributes and character he says Romney possess.