Mitt Romney: Jobs numbers a 'hammer blow to the struggling middle class'

"These numbers are not just statistics, they're real people, really suffering, having hard times," Romney said.

After blasting the president's economic plan, Romney argued that his experience in business made him a superior alternative to the president.

"This is not a mystery for me. This is not theory, this is practice," Romney said, adding that his economic plan "is not based on spending years in academics talking about theories, it's based on actually having a job in the private sector."

Romney also made concrete pledges to add 12 million jobs within his first term and have America completely energy independent by the end of his second.

He also returned to hammering Obama on his "you didn't build that" remark, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd as he declared that "it may go down as the most famous quote of his entire presidency."

Romney dismissed Democratic objections that that quote had been taken out of context by saying that a reading of the full speech revealed "the context is worse than the quote."

"We celebrate people who work hard, we celebrate achievement in this country, we do not celebrate government," Romney said.

The Republican hopeful also touted his endorsement from former Polish President Lech Walesa, placing Walesa into the same company as civil-rights icon Rosa Parks. Romney entered into a lengthy discussion of civil-rights battles across the globe, mentioning at one point former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — rumored to be on his shortlist for vice presidential candidates.

Romney also looked to rebut charges from Obama, who this week has been hammering his rival over a report that found Romney's tax plan would likely increase taxes on middle-income voters and benefit the wealthiest Americans. During a competing speech at the same time Friday, Obama accused Republicans of "upside down economics."

"The people standing behind me shouldn’t have to pay more just so that the wealthiest Americans can pay less," Obama said.

But Romney said a study from Rice University found that his plan would create millions of new jobs and that competition for those spots would drive salaries up across the board.

"This is a time for choice for America," Romney said.