AMES, Iowa (AP) -Poiuting to fresh evidence of economic sluggishness, Republican challenger Mitt Romney said Friday that President Barack Obama inherited a bad situation when he took office and then "made the problem worse." Obama looked ahead to the second term he's hoping to win.
Referring to the two top Republicans in Congress, the president said he was prepared to "wash John Boehner's car" or "walk Mitch McConnell's dog" if it would help complete an elusive deal to cut future deficits by trillions of dollars.
The two campaign rivals faced a common danger as the end of their race came into view: a large and dangerous storm threatening to barrel up the East Coast. Romney and Vice President Joe Biden each canceled planned weekend appearances in Virginia Beach, Va.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a football on the tarmac of Akron-Canton Regional Airport in Akron, Ohio, Friday.
Romney was unsparing in his criticism of the man he plans to unseat. "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," the former Massachusetts governor said.
"Four years ago, America voted for a post-partisan president, but they have seen the most political of presidents, and a Washington in gridlock because of it," he added.
The Republican challenger borrowed a theme from Obama's successful 2008 campaign, saying he and running mate Paul Ryan "can bring real change to this country." And he tweaked a line that former President Bill Clinton unveiled at this summer's Democratic National Convention, saying, "This is not the time to double-down on trickle-down government policies that have failed us."
Democrats delighted in pointing out that Romney spoke outside Kinzler Construction Services, which benefitted from more than $650,000 in stimulus funding from the 2009 package Obama that signed into law - and the Republican nominee often criticizes.
Romney campaigned in Iowa and Ohio as national polls showed a tight race. Obama's team has claimed the president led or was tied in each of the nine battleground states where the two sides have concentrated hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising over the past five months.
Back in the White House after his campaigning, Obama said he looked forward to trying to reach a deal with congressional Republicans on a sweeping budget deal if he wins re-election. Asked by radio show host Michael Smerconish if he would make the first move, the president replied, "I've said I'll do whatever's required to get this done.
"And I think the key that the American people want right now is for us to tackle some big challenges that we face in a commonsense, balanced, sensible way." That was a reference to one of his biggest differences with Romney - his insistence that tax cuts be allowed to expire at upper incomes on Dec. 31, as opposed to Romney's insistence that they be extended.
Obama has been under pressure from Romney in recent days to be more specific about a second-term agenda, and he released a 20-page pamphlet earlier this week.
The two sides disagreed - of course - on whether the political battlefield was expanding.
First Romney, then Obama, launched a modest run of ads in Minnesota, where neither side had made a significant effort to date. The Republican's aides claimed an opportunity to make a state competitive that had long been counted as safe for Obama. The president's side disputed that, insisting its ads were aimed at voters in Wisconsin, the battleground next door.
Romney's aides billed his remarks as a speech about the economy although it was more political than that.
"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," he said.
"And then, where are the jobs? Where are the 9 million more jobs that President Obama promised his stimulus would have created by now? They are in China, Mexico, Canada" and elsewhere, he said.