WESTERVILLE, Ohio — As a fresh wave of polling shows Mitt Romney’s chances slipping in this crucial battleground state, the GOP nominee began a sprint across the state Wednesday with a message to voters that the nation cannot endure a second term for President Obama.
“I don’t believe we can afford four more years like the last four years and the reason I believe that after the debates and after the campaigns, and after all the ads are over, the people of Ohio are going to say loud and clear on Nov. 6 we can’t afford four more years, we must do better,” he told about 2,000 cheering supporters crowded into a high school gym and an overflow room. “This election comes down to a very dramatic choice in my opinion.”
But polling shows that Ohioans are increasingly breaking for Obama. A CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll, released Wednesday, showed the president up by 10 points here. The state is crucial to Romney’s bid for the White House. ( The campaign says their internal polling shows a closer race.) The state's important status was demonstrated Wednesday by visits from by Romney and Obama.
Romney started the morning in this Columbus suburb, which supported Obama in 2008 and President Bush in 2004. He will then head to a business roundtable in a Cleveland suburb before an evening rally in Toledo. Obama plans to court young voters at two college campuses.
PHOTOS: Mitt Romney on the campaign trail
Romney’s chances in Ohio are in part complicated by the state’s economy, which is recovering faster than the nation, a point Gov. John Kasich alluded to as he introduced the GOP nominee.
“I hope you all know that Ohio’s coming back. From 48th in job creation to No. 4. No. 1 in the Midwest. From 89 cents in a rainy day fund to a half a million dollars and we have grown 123,000 jobs in the state of Ohio. Our families are going back to work,” Kasich said. “But every day I have to face the headwinds that come from Washington.”
As he has in other states where the local economy is rosier than the nation’s, Romney emphasized the burgeoning federal debt as a billboard displayed the tally growing throughout the rally. Romney noted that when Obama took office the debt was more than $10 trillion; when Romney launched his campaign, it was $15 trillion; and now it’s over $16 trillion. He predicted that if Obama is reelected, the nation’s debt will grow to nearly $20 trillion.
“Those debts get passed on to our kids,” he said. “It’s not just bad for the economy, it’s not just bad for our job creation it will-- in my opinion it is immoral for us to pass on obligations like that to the next generation.”
As his campaign has struggled to regain footing in the presidential race, advisors announced earlier this week that he would focus on trade and energy policy on the stump. But Romney glossed over those issues Wednesday morning, instead focusing on debt, taxes and the struggles of the middle class.
Romney said his “heart aches” from the struggles of people he’s met on the campaign trail.
INTERACTIVE: Battleground states map
“There are so many people in our country that are hurting right now. I want to help them. I know what it takes to get an economy going again and creating jobs. I know that a lot of folks that have jobs that wonder how they can make ends meet till the end of the month, how they can put food on the table for their family,” he said, noting that incomes are declining while costs are increasing for electricity, fuel and healthcare. “The difference between me and President Obama is I know what to do and I will do what it takes to get this economy going.”
He pledged to cut and simplify income taxes, with a caveat.
“By the way, don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions,” he said. “But by bringing rates down we’ll be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people. My priority is jobs and I’ll make it happen.”
Romney campaigned with Jack Nicklaus, a beloved native son who is regarded as the most accomplished golfer of all time. Nicklaus compared the nation’s current struggles with a time he struggled with his golf game.
“At the start of the 1970 season, I had gone almost three years without winning a major championship. I lived on talent but I wasn’t the golfer I could be,” he said, adding that his father’s death prompted reflection and introspection. “I reinvented myself, worked harder than I had ever worked, and the result was some of the most successful years of my careers. I believe our country, I believe our country is at that point today. We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing. We have to look at problems at hand and change them.”
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