Republican Mitt Romney wrapped up his big week in politically pivotal Ohio Saturday, grabbing for a jolt of momentum as Democrats prepared to seize the national stage. President Barack Obama campaigned himself in Iowa, firing back that Romney’s Republican convention was a “re-run” of old ideas.
The skirmish across the Midwest came as Romney emerged from the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, and as Democrats started to arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Democratic National Convention.
A visibly energized Romney appeared before a loud, appreciative audience of about 1,000 at Cincinnati’s historic downtown art deco Union Terminal under a huge banner proclaiming the Republican ticket as “America’s Comeback Team.” The audience cheered when he pledged to repeal the 2010 federal health care law. They whooped and hollered when he sounded his key message of the day: “I will bring us together.”
“I will do everything in my power to bring us together, because united, America built the strongest economy in the history of the earth,” he said. “United, we put Neil Armstrong on the moon. United, we faced down unspeakable darkness. United, our men and women in uniform continue to defend freedom today.”
Ohio native Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died a week ago.
Romney blamed President Barack Obama for poisoning the political debate.
“These are tough times for the American people,” he said. “And added to all that is the divisiveness and bitterness that we’ve seen from the president’s campaign. Look, America is a story of the many becoming one and accomplishing extraordinary things because of our unity.’’
Romney found what’s become a typical audience - long-time fans mingled with people who are only now firmly on board after harboring doubts about him during a long and hard fought primary campaign.
“Romney’s coming on strong,” said Ellen Dickhaus, a flooring company office manager from Cincinnati.
“My dream ticket would be Chris Christie and Marco Rubio,” said Judie Dreyer, a police clerk from Mason, Ohio. “Romney just doesn’t seem to have that fire in the belly.”
Republican vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan was in nearby Columbus for Ohio State University’s opening football game. The ticket-mates were to re-unite later Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida, another key area in the fall campaign. After five days of convention messages and acceptance speeches, rallies in swing states and a visit to storm-torn Louisiana, Romney plans no events Sunday or Monday.
Obama countered by launching a “Road to Charlotte” tour Saturday at the Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa.
He told an audience estimated at 10,000 that it was important to begin in Iowa, where he said his campaign got started more than four years ago and which “kept us going when the pundits were writing us off.”
He lambasted the Republican convention, saying it offered a return to economic policies of the past.
“Despite all the challenges we face, what they offered over those three days was more often than not an agenda that was better suited for the last century. It was a re-run. We’ve seen it before. You might as well have watched it on a black and white TV.”
He said at his convention he’d offer “what I believe is a better path forward. A path to grow this economy, create good jobs and strengthen the middle class…We can choose whether we give massive new tax cuts to folks who’ve already made it or whether we keep the tax cuts for every American whose still trying to make it.”
He defended his record amid crowd cheers of “four more years,” saying he’s cut taxes for the middle class and is running “to make sure taxes aren’t raised a dime on your family’s first $250,000 of income.”
After being introduced by a veteran at the event, Obama also noted that Romney had "nothing to say about Afghanistan" during his convention speech, “let alone offer a plan for the 33,000 troops who will have come home from the war by the end of this month.”
Obama will visit Colorado on Sunday, and Monday travels to Ohio and Louisiana, where he’ll inspect storm damage. The last stop before Charlotte is Tuesday in Norfolk, Va..
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As they jockeyed for position between the conventions, both sides tried to set expectations to their advantage.
Romney advisers said they expected no bounce in support from their convention because it’s followed immediately by the Democratic gathering. “The whole landscape of campaigns has changed,” senior strategist Stuart Stevens said. “The whole political world is so different.”
“I don’t think they got much out of that convention,” said Obama top strategist David Axelrod.
Gallup’s daily tracking found that from Tuesday through Thursday, the three major days of the convention, the race was still neck and neck with Obama up by one percentage point. The Rasmussen Poll reported a “modest” bounce for Romney by week’s end, saying he’d gone from 2 points down to 3 points up. “Next week is Obama’s convention, which should produce its own bounce,” pollster Scott Rasmussen wrote Saturday. “Barring something unusual next week in Charlotte, we won’t really know which convention produced the bigger bounce until about a week after the Democratic National Convention.”
Lightman reported from Ohio; Clark from Washington.