POWELL, Ohio — Mitt Romney made one last stop in must-win Ohio Saturday before heading back to his Massachusetts home to prepare to accept his party's presidential nomination this week in Tampa.
He told a crowd of about 5,000 gathered in a park in the heart of the small, Republican-friendly Columbus suburb of Powell that on Friday night he had read the speech President Obama delivered four years ago in Denver.
"It's really a brilliant speech," he said. "He says marvelous things. He just hasn't done them. My guess is a few weeks from now he'll be speaking in the Bank of America Arena. He won't call it that. He'll be in Charlotte, and he probably won't put Greek columns up behind him. He won't want to remind us of that either.
"But he will have all sorts or promises to offer again," he said. "He'll tell you how much better things are now. But this time we have more than just the words. We have the record, and we understand the big gap between what he promises and what he hopes, and what he actually delivers."
As protesters on the park's outskirts shouted pleas including "Hands off Medicare!" Mr. Romney didn't let go of the Greek metaphor.
"This is kind of like the Greek chorus in the background," he said. "Everything they do reminds us of Greece, and we're not going to Greece. We're going to get America back to being America."
Saturday's event was Mr. Romney's first joint appearance with running mate Paul Ryan in battleground Ohio.
It was a clear, sunny morning, unlike the storm clouds of what is expected to become Hurricane Isaac, which could threaten Florida just as Republicans start their national convention.
Mr. Romney came to Ohio directly from his native Michigan.
"You've got a border-control problem if you have me coming in from Michigan this morning," he joked. He had no birth certificate joke this time, as he did in Michigan on Friday.
His voice occasionally cracking, Mr. Romney repeated his primary five-point platform of deficit reduction, fair trade, energy independence, small business promotion, and education.
Standing in a state where a political war over unions last year ended with a labor victory, Mr. Romney briefly took aim at teachers' unions.
"We will put the teachers and the kids first, and the union behind," he said.
Mr. Ryan reached back four years to Springfield Township near Toledo to make his point.
"You guys know Joe the Plumber?" he asked the crowd. "Remember the comment, ‘We're just going to spread the wealth around'? It's this belief that the economic pie is fixed, that one person's gain necessarily comes at another person's loss. It's the idea that the pie is fixed and it's the government's job to redistribute the slices of the pie as they see fit. That's just a lot of baloney. …
"We want to grow the pie so that everybody has a chance at the American idea," he said.
On that day in 2008, Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher became the face of Republican presidential nominee John McCain's criticisms of Mr. Obama's promises. Mr. Wurzelbacher is now the GOP candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Ohio) in the 9th Congressional District.
The Obama campaign claimed that nearly 55,000 of the families with incomes of less than $200,000 a year in Delaware County would see tax increases averaging $2,000 under Mr. Romney's tax reform plans.
"Today [Saturday], we saw why the Romney/Ryan plan is wrong for Ohio's women, wrong for Ohio's seniors, and wrong for Ohio's future," Obama spokesman Jessica Kershaw said. "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan came to Powell, Ohio, today on the heels of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin's trip to the town to record his ad trying to explain his comments on ‘legitimate rape' and continued to peddle their extreme plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program for nearly 2 million seniors in Ohio, while giving trillions of dollars in tax breaks skewed to the wealthiest, paid for by raising taxes on millions of middle class people in Ohio.
"This top-down, backward-looking economic vision that rewards the wealthy at the expense of the middle class is wrong for Ohio," she said.
Emily Breig, 26, a data analyst from Columbus, stood in the crowd wearing a Romney T-shirt.
But she was quick to point out that she has also stood in a different crowd this election cycle wearing an Obama shirt, making her one of the few people that polls suggest haven't yet made up their minds.
She's also whom all those television ads are targeting, but so far she mostly finds them annoying.
"They're not particularly positive, but I hope as we get closer to the election that they'll focus on the issues and say what they plan for the country … " she said. "From my perspective, it looks like both of them are picking out specific things to show the other candidate as negatively as possible. They're taking a specific view of facts."
Ron Garrett, 65, of nearby Worthington is firmly in the Romney camp. He just recently joined Medicare, a program at the heart of the finger-pointing within both campaigns.
"I think the Medicare issue is nothing more than a football that they just kick around," he said. "The whole system needs such huge revision that, to just pick apart little parts of it, it's just talking points. I would like Ryan to sit down and explain his plan, because I think Ryan's the only one that's got enough of a sense about the budget to come up with a decent plan."
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.