It was the Republican presidential candidate's second campaign stop in the state Thursday, and he again adopted a muscular critique of Obama that had been absent in recent days, as both candidates looked to avoid clear displays of partisanship in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But facing an election with just five days remaining — and a CBS News poll released Thursday that gave the president a two-point lead in Virginia — Romney again hammered the president over his handling of the economy.
At one point in the speech, Romney called on Cantor to illustrate his argument that President Obama had been unwilling to work across the aisle to confront the nation's fiscal problems.
"By the way, let me just ask the Leader over here. Leader Cantor, when was the last time you met with the president on the economy or jobs or budget?" Romney asked.
After the Virginia lawmaker responded that it had been "almost a year," Romney quickly seized on the reply.
"For me to get the things done I'm going to have to reach across the aisle and meet with good Democrats who love America just like you love America, and there are good Democrats like that. I'm going to meet regularly with Democrat and Republican leaders, I won't do that once a year. I will do that frequently," Romney said.
Romney has made his bipartisan pledge a central theme of his closing argument, emphasizing at nearly every campaign stop in recent weeks his efforts as governor of Massachusetts to reach across the aisle. And there's support that message could be breaking through: a poll released Thursday by the Associated Press showed a plurality of voters believed Romney was best equipped to break through the partisan gridlock in Washington.
But Romney also showered plenty of criticism on his opponents across the aisle at the campaign stop, including accusing the president of being responsible for the closure of a local barbecue establishment. Romney said he had just visited Bill's Barbecue, a local chain that used to employ some 200 people.
"The owner of Bill's just told me that she's going to close her doors. Business is closing up," Romney said. "And I said, 'why?' And she said, taxes, federal regulations, and then she also said ‘ObamaCare.’"
Romney added that "those three things are crushing small businesses across America."
The Republican nominee clearly believes the argument will appeal to voter's minds — or maybe their stomachs. The Romney campaign announced earlier in the day they were releasing a Web video that featured the story of the same barbecue joint.
"Bill’s Barbecue in Richmond couldn’t take four years of President Obama. Can we afford four more?" said spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
From Richmond, Romney headed to Virginia Beach Thursday night for his final event in the state.