Romney hits Obama on economic growth, promises to bring 'big change'

Mitt Romney blasted President Obama on Friday as shrinking from "the scale of the times" and having failed to make up ground on the economic challenges he inherited.

Romney made his remarks in a rare prepared speech on the campaign trail in Iowa, where he vowed "big change" for the economy.

"Four years ago, candidate Obama spoke to the scale of the times. Today, he shrinks from it, trying instead to distract our attention from the biggest issues to the smallest — from characters on Sesame Street and silly word games to misdirected personal attacks he knows are false," Romney said.

And the Republican presidential nominee used Friday's economic report that showed a sluggish 2 percent GDP growth to argue the president had failed to turn around the economy during his first term.

"Today, we received the latest round of discouraging economic news: Last quarter, our economy grew at just 2 percent," Romney said. "After the stimulus was passed, the White House promised the economy would now be growing at 4.3 percent, over twice as fast. Slow economic growth means slow job growth and declining take home pay. This is what four years of President Obama's policies have produced."

While Romney included his critique of the president having "shrunk from proposing any solution at all," the Republican's nominee's speech — billed by aides as a significant address and one of his closing arguments in the final days on the campaign trail — leaned heavily on his standard stump speech.

It was a point not lost on the Obama campaign, which said excerpts provided early from the campaign appeared to show Romney would "not be offering any new or substantive plans and will instead resort to recycled falsehoods that have been repeatedly debunked throughout this campaign."

Romney also looked to address head-on the contention from the Obama campaign that the country was still digging out from a recession caused by the policies of his Republican predecessor, saying the president had doubled down on a bad situation. Polls have suggested that large swaths of voters continue to place blame for the economy at the feet of former President George W. Bush.

"What he inherited wasn't the only problem; what he did with what he inherited made the problem worse," Romney said.

The Republican presidential candidate went on to argue the problem was "not what he inherited, it is with the misguided policies that slowed the recovery, and caused millions of Americans to endure lengthy unemployment and poverty."

Romney did not pull punches, casting the president as responsible a wide variety of failures.

"Despite all that he inherited, President Obama did not repair our economy, he did not save Medicare and Social Security, he did not tame the spending and borrowing, he did not reach across the aisle to bring us together," Romney said. "Nor did he stand up to China's trade practices, or deliver on his promise to remake our relations with the Muslim world, where anti-American extremism is on the rise."

Romney depicted himself as able to strike the type of bipartisan compromises necessary to address the "big problems."

"I know it because I have seen it: Good Democrats can come together with good Republicans to solve big problems. What we need is leadership," Romney said.

But the Obama campaign swiped back, saying Romney was "not a bipartisan governor — he was criticized for being disengaged and overly partisan to help his presidential ambitions."

And Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith punched back on the issues of Social Security and Medicare, arguing "a plan like Romney’s could cut Social Security benefits by 40 percent for future retirees" and "Romney wouldn’t strengthen Medicare — he’d turn it into a voucher program and increase seniors’ costs by more than $6,000 a year."

Romney is hoping that his speech will earn him some traction in Iowa. The president has remained ahead in the polls in the Hawkeye State, which could play a pivotal role in the race for the White House. The Real Clear Politics average of polls Friday gave Obama a 2.3 percentage point lead in the state.

On Friday, Romney acknowledged Iowa's potential as a tipping point.

"You Iowans may well be the ones who decide what kind of America we will have, what kind of life our families will have," Romney said.