Mitt Romney speaks to 18,000 in Ohio, asks voters to choose real change
Charles Dharapak, Associated Press
WEST CHESTER, Ohio — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney warned Friday that re-electing his Democratic opponent would threaten another government shutdown and national default as he launched into the last weekend of campaigning with a massive rally in critical Ohio.
In a closing argument speech in Wisconsin and later in front of more than 18,000 people in suburban Cincinnati, the former Massachusetts governor said only he can work with Congress to keep any of that from happening.
"He's ignored them, he's attacked them, he's blamed them," Romney said of President Barack Obama and Congress. "The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy."
Romney, who has struck an increasingly bipartisan tone in recent weeks, used Friday's events to help crystalize what he says would be the real-world impact of Obama's continued inability to break the political gridlock in Washington.
Indeed, whoever is elected will face the so-called fiscal cliff — a combination of tax increases and domestic and military spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress and the White House agree on a plan to stop it.
Romney said the choice voters face Tuesday is easily boiled down. "If you're tired of being tired, then I ask you to vote for real change," he said from the stage in Ohio, dozens of his top supporters lined up in chairs behind him. The thousands in attendance had waited for hours in the freezing cold to hear him and running mate Paul Ryan.
The Republican nominee goes in to the weekend with battleground state polls showing a close race in Ohio and across the nation. His aides say they're confident — but an aggressive travel schedule shows they're trying to build a path to the 270 electoral votes even without Ohio's 18.
On Saturday, Romney will campaign in New Hampshire, Iowa and Colorado. On Sunday, he's in Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia.
It's a difficult road. "Your state is the one I'm counting on, by the way," Romney said in Ohio. "This is the one we have to win."
During his Friday night speech, the thousands of people gathered broke into chants of "four more days" — the length of time to Election Day. They echoed the excited crowd that greeted Romney in Wisconsin earlier in the day.
Romney's first address followed by hours the release of the Labor Department's final jobs report before the election. It showed that U.S. employers added 171,000 jobs in October and that hiring was stronger in September and August than first thought. The unemployment rate inched up to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in September, because more people started looking for work.
The report sketched a picture of a job market that is gradually gaining momentum after nearly stalling in the spring.
In a statement issued before arriving in Wisconsin, the home state of running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney said the new unemployment report was a "sad reminder that the economy is at a virtual standstill."
While polls have shown the economy is the top concern of most voters, Romney's advisers don't believe the new jobs number will have any impact on the election. Privately they said the report was likely a wash — with a slight uptick in unemployment and stronger-than-expected job growth. Publicly, they said it gave Romney a new point to hammer home in the final days.
Still, Romney struck a bipartisan tone Friday. "The president just cannot work with Congress to get the work done," he declared. "I will not represent one party. I will represent one nation."
In the Wisconsin speech, Romney asked people to vote for "real change" if they are "tired of being tired."
While Romney's team is making an aggressive play for Wisconsin, no Republican has won the state since President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
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