NORTH CANTON, Ohio — Appropriating his opponent’s rallying cry of four years ago, Mitt Romney promised change Friday night to a chilled but cheering audience of thousands filling a high school ball field.
“We want real change; we want big change. And Paul Ryan and I are going to give it to the people of America with your help,” the Republican told supporters in Stark County, a traditional bellwether of this pivotal state.
Many in the crowd had been in place for hours, having made their way through lines that stretched for hundreds of yards in the streets surrounding a suburban high school. Mr. Romney was introduced by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. They were also joined by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.
The Oak Ridge Boys served as another opening act, their renditions of “Amazing Grace,” and “Elvira,” warming up a crowd sorely in need of warmth, if not enthusiasm.
“It matters, you know, how big this race is,” Mr. Romney said. “This is an election of consequence.”
Throughout his 18-minute speech, the former governor belittled the tone of the Obama campaign while once again assailing the President for failing to spur the economy to a more vigorous recovery.
Mr. Ryan, who appeared with his wife and their three children, opened his remarks with another echo of the incumbent, quoting his observation from the last election, that when you don’t have anything to say, “You make a big election about small things.”
Mr. Romney continued that theme, accusing Mr. Obama of trying to divert attention from issues “to characters on Sesame Street, silly word games, and attacks on me he knows are not true.”
The GOP nominee’s remarks drew on his standard stump speech and included a conversational reprise of the more formal address he delivered earlier in the day in Iowa.
Mr. Romney spoke on a day when the government released preliminary figures showing that the nation’s GDP had gown 2 percent during the third quarter of the year. The statistic drew predictably different reactions from the two camps. Mr. Romney released a statement calling it a disappointing reminder that the White House had predicted that its 2009 stimulus legislation would produce much more robust growth.
The White House called the report evidence of a continuing recovery.
“While we have more work to do, together with other economic indicators, this report provides further evidence that the economy is moving in the right direction,” Alan Krueger, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement.
Friday night’s remarks followed the pattern of Mr. Romney’s more formal speech earlier in the day in Iowa, where Mr. Romney had once again sharply criticized the President’s handling of the economy, an assessment the Obama campaign quickly dismissed.
“True to form, Mitt Romney’s most recent ‘major policy speech’ included dishonest attacks and empty promises of change, but no new policy. That’s because all Mitt Romney has is a one-point economic plan that he’s been running on for two years: The very wealthy get to play by a very different set of rules than everyone else,” said Obama spokesman Lis Smith in a statement responding to the speech.
“Romney has started promising ‘big change,’ but the only change Romney’s offering is to take us back to the same failed policies that crashed our economy in the first place,” she charged.
Democrats were also quick to point out that the construction firm where Mr. Romney gave his Iowa speech had received some of the federal stimulus funds that he frequently derides. Even before Mr. Romney spoke in Iowa, the Democratic National Committee shot out a blast email noting that the owner of the construction company had received a $1.25 million loan through the 2009 recovery act.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. James O’Toole is politics editor at the Post-Gazette.
Contact James O’Toole at: email@example.com, or 412-263-1562.