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NEWARK, Ohio — A sometimes hoarse but persistently optimistic Mitt Romney today worked to be heard over shouts of protesters as he tried to convince small-town Ohio that he, not President Obama, has the recipe for economic recovery.
“You’re going to see something right here in Ohio and all over the country," the soon-to-be Republican nominee said in a nine-minute speech to a crowd of about 1,000 on the Licking County Courthouse square in Newark, about 40 miles east of Columbus.
“We’re going to shock the world with how our economy’s coming back," he said. “I’m optimistic about the future, Ohio… I’m convinced that the American people are going to be surprised about how great this economy can be…If we take advantage of a different course from the one that’s been pursued by this president, if we turn away from the path of Europe with big government and big taxes and government health care, America is going to see a very different dream for the future."
He reminded the crowd of Mr. Obama’s comment last week that the private sector is doing fine.
“He’s trying to convince us he’s made things better…," Mr. Romney said. “You know what? Twenty-three million people who are out of work or stopped looking for work may have something to say about that, People who’ve seen their incomes go down may have something to say about that…
“This president has not succeeded," he said. “He deserves to go home."
The Newark event was intimate enough that a dozen or so protestors were able to challenge the candidate in terms of volume, shouting about like jobs and birth control. Mr. Romney never acknowledged them, but his wife, Ann, did.
“We can be just as loud about how much we love this country," she said.
Mr. Romney’s “Every Town Counts" tour, his first traditional bus tour of six swing states, rolled through New Hampshire and Pennsylvania on its way to a Father’s Day swing through three small Ohio towns off the main highways. He then heads for Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan.
All five states were in the Obama column in 2008, but are considered in play for Mr. Romney this time around.
“[Mr. Obama’s] trying to change his campaign theme," Mr. Romney said. “Last time it was hope and change. This time he’s trying to change the subject because the American people are not happy."
The tour sidesteps larger cities in favor of suburban and rural small towns that the Romney campaign contends are largely flyover territory for Mr. Obama. In Ohio, he visited three counties—Medina outside Cleveland, Licking outside Columbus, and Miami outside Dayton, all counties carried by Republican John McCain in 2008.
He started his day with an outdoor breakfast on a Brunswick farm and ended with a stop at a hamburger shop in the Dayton suburb of Troy. Between stops, the Romney bus tour left the highways onto back roads through small towns.
The trip marked Mr. Romney’s 11th to battleground Ohio of the campaign dating back to mid-2011 and his second in less than a week. He and Mr. Obama delivered dueling speeches on opposite sides of the state on Thursday in Cincinnati and Cleveland, respectively.
In Michigan, Mr. Romney will hold a morning event in Frankenmuth, Mich., Tuesday, a rally at Holland State Park in Michigan that evening, and then participate in a couple of fund-raisers Wednesday in Grand Rapids and Troy. He's expected back in suburban Columbus for a fund-raiser Thursday night.
While Mr. Romney’s Sunday trip focused on his criticism of Mr. Obama’s national economic policies, Ohio again stepped on his message somewhat last week. Numbers released Friday showed that Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped again from 7.4 percent to 7.3 percent.
The state’s rate remains well below the rising 8.2 percent national average Mr. Romney talks about on the campaign trail.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland on Saturday joined a Democratic bus tour of Ohio that stayed a step ahead of Mr. Romney. He challenged Mr. Romney’s opposition to the federal loans used by Mr. Obama to rescue the auto industry.
“Preventing unemployment not only helped those who work in the auto plants, but parts manufacturers and tire companies and local stores where those workers go to get their coffee and eat lunch," Mr. Strickland said. “It not only saved Detroit, but it saved communities and towns across Ohio.
“And plants are now adding third shifts," he said. “Ohio has already added over 16,000 auto jobs on top of the jobs that were saved."
Mr. Romney traveled through the Buckeye State with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, among those most mentioned as a potential running mate. He was expected to be joined by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, of southwest Ohio, at the stop in Troy.