Romney hits Obama on defense cuts at Va. rally

Mitt Romney slammed President Obama on Thursday over proposed defense cuts that would occur because of sequestration, calling the legislative deal a "strange proposal" and warning the proposed Pentagon cuts were a "kind of a gun-to-your-head opportunity."

"It's a strange proposal in the first place, it's even stranger that it's put in place," Romney said while speaking to military veterans at an American Legion post in Springfield, Va. "136,000 jobs will be lost in Virginia because of the move."

Sequestration is a particularly potent issue in Virginia, an important battleground state. Major defense contractors and the Pentagon are based in the state's Washington-area suburbs, while the Norfolk-Virginia Beach economy is largely based on federal spending. Nearly a fourth of the nation's active duty military personnel are stationed in the state.

The Republican presidential nominee said that while he knows "there is waste in the military," he wants to use money saved from finding inefficiencies "and take them to care for our veterans."

"I'm concerned about the future. I'm concerned about America. I'm concerned about the direction is headed," Romney said.

Romney traveling press secretary Rick Gorka noted that the job loss resulting from the defense cuts would be the equivalent of laying off the entire populations of Springfield, West Springfield, Fairfax and McLean — major Virginia suburbs close to Washington, D.C.

Romney proceeded to dovetail his criticism of sequestration cuts into a broader critique of the president's economic record, highlighting reports released Thursday that said the economy grew only 1.3 percent in the second quarter of the year, well below expectations.

"This is a really challenge for us. This is not just one quarter — this has been going on for years," Romney said of the revised GDP estimate.

The Republican nominee went on to compare the figure to that of competing economies.

"1.3 percent versus Russia at 4 percent? China at 7 or 8 percent? This is unacceptable. This is not working," Romney said.

The Obama campaign dismissed Romney's criticism of the president's economic record, and pointed out that the president has repeatedly called for Congress to reach a compromise to avoid sequestration.

"Democrats have to understand we're going to need some additional spending cuts, and Republicans have to understand we're going to need some additional revenues," Obama told The Virginian-Pilot last month.

And in a statement Thursday, the Obama campaign used Romney's comments to swipe back at remarks the Republican nominee made during a closed-door fundraiser. 

"Mitt Romney would like Virginians to forget how he disdainfully wrote off half of all Americans, including veterans and active duty members, at a fundraiser with high-dollar donors," said Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith. "But his policies are even worse than those closed door comments. His plan could result in deep cuts to the VA and he has suggested privatizing veterans’ health care."

The president was also appearing at a rally Thursday in Virginia Beach. A Fox News poll of the state released last week showed Obama with a seven-point lead.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki, talking with reporters on Air Force One in route to Obama's event, noted Virginia's swing-state status.

"We know Virginia is going to be a close race. I would bet that when the Romney team was looking at their scope of states that they probably thought six months ago that they might be in a stronger position in Virginia and it's very close, it's within the margin of error. We're going to run, regardless of where the polls are in Virginia, like we're five points behind, and that's why we're here today," she said.