Romney trying to return campaign focus to economy; Clinton says voters face a 'clear choice'
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Republican Mitt Romney, seeking to refocus his presidential campaign on the economy after days of distraction, is promoting energy proposals aimed at creating more than 3 million new jobs and opening up more areas for drilling off the coast of two politically critical states, Virginia and North Carolina.
Romney's pivot to energy, a key component of his jobs agenda, comes as the national debate has turned away from the GOP candidate's jobs message and toward issues like rape, abortion, welfare and Medicare 2½ months before Election Day.
President Barack Obama's campaign also began a new push on the economy Thursday with a television advertisement featuring former President Bill Clinton. In the ad, Clinton speaks directly to the camera and says voters face a "clear choice" over which candidate will return the nation to full employment.
"We need to keep going with his plan," Clinton says of Obama in the ad, which will run in eight battleground states.
The former president also draws a connection between Obama's policies for strengthening the middle class and the nation's economic prosperity during his time in office, when the U.S. economy was thriving. Obama's campaign has been seeking to use Clinton as a reminder to voters that the economy was strong the last time a Democrat held the White House.
Romney is traveling from Arkansas to New Mexico on Thursday to discuss what aides cast as a comprehensive energy plan that would result in more than $1 trillion in revenue for federal, state and local governments, plus millions of jobs.
The most significant aspects of Romney's plans hinge on opening up more areas for offshore oil drilling, including in the mid-Atlantic, where it is currently banned. Romney also wants to give states the power to establish all forms of energy production on federal lands, a significant shift in current policy that could face strong opposition in Congress.
In a supporting document, Romney says it now takes up to 307 days to receive permits to drill a well on federal land. By contrast, states such as North Dakota issue permits within 10 days and Colorado within 27 days, Romney said.
"States are far better able to develop, adopt and enforce regulations based on their unique resources, geology and local concerns," the statement said.
In an effort to appease environmentalists, Romney says he would prevent energy production on federal lands designated as off-limits.
Romney's plan focuses heavily on boosting domestic oil production, including approving the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada to U.S. refineries in Texas.
The proposal would establish a new five-year leasing plan for offshore oil production that "aggressively opens" new areas for drilling, starting with the coasts of Virginia and North Carolina. Virginia's Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has pushed to expand offshore drilling as a boost to Virginia's economy.
The Obama administration has proposed a plan that would allow energy companies to begin seismic testing to find oil and natural reserves in the Atlantic Ocean. Companies would use the information to determine where to apply for energy leases, although no leases would be available until at least 2017.
The Romney plan makes little mention of wind energy, which Obama has pushed heavily in states such as Iowa and Colorado. Obama has pushed Congress to extend a tax credit for producers of wind energy, an approach that Romney opposes.
The presumptive GOP nominee has significant ties to big oil and raised at least $7 million from industry executives this week during fundraisers in Texas.
Romney's campaign says his strategy would achieve energy independence by 2020.
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