WASHINGTON, DC -- Mitt Romney set the stage on Wednesday for a showdown tomorrow that pit the presumptive GOP nominee and President Obama against each other at public campaign events in the same state for the first time in the general election.
Romney, appearing at a lunch meeting of the Business Roundtable, a group of executives that has also previously hosted Obama, fired a shot across the bow of the president's campaign. The former Massachusetts governor warned that Obama's words on Thursday at a campaign event in Cleveland are "cheap," and make for no substitute for actual action to improve the economy.
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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses the quarterly meeting of the Business Roundtable at the Newseum June 13, 2012 in Washington, DC.
"He said, as you know, just a few days ago that the private sector is doing fine," Romney said, again dredging up the president's gaffe at a press conference on Friday. "But the incredulity that came screaming back from the American people, I think, has caused him to rethink that, and I think you’re gonna see him change course when he speaks tomorrow, where he will acknowledge that it isn’t going so well, and he’ll be asking for four more years."
"My own view is that he will speak eloquently, but that words are cheap, and that the record of an individual is the basis upon which you determine whether they should continue to hold on to their job," Romney continued. "The record is that we have 23 million Americans that are out of work or stopped looking for work or underemployed. That is a compelling and a sad statistic."
Both Romney and Obama will court voters in the pivotal swing state of Ohio during separate events scheduled roughly for the same time of day. The president will speak in Cleveland, while Romney will appear in the Cincinnati area.
Today, Romney emphasized his pro-business agenda in front of the group of like-minded executives, hitting Obama for tax and regulatory policies he said were averse to business.
"I happen to believe that if you look at his record over the last three and a half years, you will conclude as I have that it is the most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs series of policies in modern American history. The reason that it has taken so long for this recovery to gain traction and to put people back to work is in large measure because of the policy choices the president made," Romney said. "He is not responsible for whatever improvement we might be seeing. Instead, he’s responsible for the fact that it’s taken so long to see this recovery and the recovery’s been so tepid.”
The Obama campaign quickly responded, calling Romney's characterization of the president's record "dishonest."
“In another in a long line of ‘major’ economic speeches, Mitt Romney made dishonest after dishonest claim about the President’s record and failed to offer any new ideas of his own on how to improve the economy and strengthen the middle class," Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. "Contrary to Romney’s rhetoric, the President took our nation from losing 750,000 jobs a month to adding 4.3 million private sector jobs over the last 27 months, worked to reduce burdensome business regulations, and has put forward a plan to create more jobs and reduce the deficit while asking every American to pay their fair share."
After delivering remarks in the Newseum, a museum in the nation's capital dedicated to the preservation of the free press and the First Amendment, Romney took questions during a closed-press question-and-answer session. During his visit with the same group in May, President Obama also took questions after the press was escorted out of the room.