GOP candidate Mitt Romney marked Labor Day by praising America's workers and hitting President Obama for economic policies he said had harmed the middle class.

Romney called Labor Day "a chance to celebrate the strong American work ethic,” in a statement Monday.

“But for far too many Americans, today is another day of worrying when their next paycheck will come,” he said. “Over 23 million Americans are struggling for work and job creation has not returned to our economy the way it should. Even President Obama has said we aren’t better off today than we were four years ago.”

Republicans say they will make the question “Are you better off now than four years ago?” their key theme this week as they look to counter the message from Democrats meeting in Charlotte, N.C., for their convention. 

“The fundamental question’s back on the table for Americans, which is: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? Issues come and go ... but at the end of the day this is going to be about facts,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Monday. 

The question has Democrats struggling to get on the same page.

Republicans over the weekend quickly seized on remarks from Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley that voters were not better off. 

On Monday, the president’s surrogates took to the airwaves to counter the statement, with Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter saying that the country was “absolutely” better off. 

Cutter said Obama had inherited massive job losses, the financial-system collapse and a struggling auto industry when he took office and said the turnaround was well under way.

O’Malley in an appearance on CNN also walked back his remark, saying that the economy was “clearly” better.

Romney in his Labor Day statement also touted his own economic proposals, saying his “plan for a stronger middle class will champion small businesses, create millions of good jobs and build a better future for our country.”

His running mate Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRepublicans are avoiding gun talks as election looms The Hill's 12:30 Report Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan MORE (R-Wis.) is slated to attend a rally in Greenville, N.C., on Monday.