CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Mitt Romney charged here on Wednesday that President Obama had uniformly “failed” women as the Republican candidate delivered a broad and sharp indictment of the president’s record, from the economy to energy to immigration, in a bid to gain the upper hand coming out of the second presidential debate.
Romney cast himself as a champion of “the great middle class of America.” He argued that Obama has been incapable of explaining his record over the last four years and has failed to present an agenda for another four years.
“When it comes to his policies and his answers and his agenda, he’s pretty much running on fumes, and the American people want some real answers and a real agenda,” Romney told around 3,500 supporters at a rally in battleground Virginia.
Romney’s introductory speakers, including Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and comedian Dennis Miller, said Romney won Tuesday night’s debate. And although Romney didn’t directly claim victory, he said, “I have to be honest with ya, I love these debates. You know, these things are great!”
On issue after issue, Romney brought up questions from voters in Tuesday night’s town-hall-style debate and said the president did not offer satisfactory answers. At the rally, however, Romney notably declined to bring up Libya and the administration’s handling of the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. mission in Benghazi, which produced one of the sharpest exchanges in the debate.
Throughout the debate, Romney and Obama argued repeatedly over who would be the stronger supporter of women, both on economic and social issues. And in Wednesday afternoon’s rally, Romney tried to settle the score.
“This president has failed America’s women,” Romney said. “They’ve suffered in terms of getting jobs. They’ve suffered in terms of falling into poverty. This is a presidency that has not helped America’s women.”
“As I go across the country and ask women what can I do to help,” Romney continued, “what they speak about day in and day out is, ‘Help me find a good job, or a good job for my spouse, and help my kid, make sure my children have a bright future, better schools and better job opportunities.’ That’s what the women of America are concerned about, and the answers are coming from us and not from Barack Obama.”
Obama and his campaign have long attacked Romney for failing to offer specifics about his policy agenda, but on Wednesday it was Romney accusing the president of not laying out a policy vision for where he would take the country.
“He’s gotta come up with that over this weekend because there’s only one debate left,” Romney said. “I just think the American people had expected that the president of the United States would be able to describe what he’s gonna do in the next four years. But he can’t. He can’t even explain what he’s done in the last four years.”
Obama’s campaign quickly responded by saying the president has a vision for his second term with “specific” and “achievable” goals to strengthen the middle class.
“All that Mitt Romney has offered to date are sketchy deals like a tax plan that would raise taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and a jobs ‘plan’ that independent news organizations and fact-checkers have pointed out won’t actually create jobs,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. “If Mitt Romney wants to talk about plans, he might want to start with coming up with some of his own.”
Romney concluded his 16-minute speech in Chesapeake by debuting a new riff that could well become part of his closing argument to voters.
“Twenty days, we decide what kind of America we’re going to have. Twenty days, we decide how much debt we’re going to leave to our kids. Twenty days, we decide if we want a real recovery or not. Twenty days, we decide if we’re going to fundamentally change America into something we wouldn’t recognize or restore to America the principles that made us the hope of the earth.”
With the campaign growing nastier in its final weeks — both in the candidate’s feisty exchanges on the debate stage and in the tone of its television advertisements — Romney is trying to project a more moderate and reasonable temperament than the president. At Wednesday’s rally, Romney evoked the uplifting promise of bipartisan unity that was a hallmark of Obama’s 2008 campaign.
“The divisiveness we’ve seen in Washington has spread across this nation — it’s got to stop,” Romney said. “We’ve got to bring people together. We can talk about differences on issues without making personal attacks. We’ve got to draw on the great American spirit.”