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Romney kicks off fall campaign by tackling economics in Ohio talk

Brian Snyder / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney greets audience members Saturday at a campaign rally in Cincinnati, Ohio.

CINCINNATI -- Mitt Romney marked the start of the fall campaign Saturday, which coincided with the season-opening weekend of college football, by comparing President Barack Obama to the coach of a faltering team whose losing record means he must be replaced.

"One of the promises that he made was that he was going to create more jobs and today 23 million people are out of work or stopped looking for work or under employed," Romney told a raucous rally crowd in Southern Ohio in the morning. "Let me tell you, if you have a coach that is zero and 23 million, you say it's time to get a new coach. It's time for America to see a winning season again and we're going to bring it to them."

Romney, who pulled out of a planned joint rally with his running mate Paul Ryan in Virginia in favor of a trip to survey hurricane damage in Louisiana on Friday, hit the stump with renewed vigor, cribbing from his Thursday night acceptance speech at the RNC convention and whipping up a crowd of supporters in an art deco train station cum museum, where the acoustics led to Romney's words often being drowned out by applause.

"United, America built the strongest economy in the history of the earth. United we put Neil Armstrong on the moon. United we face down unspeakable darkness. United our men and women in uniform continue to defend freedom today," Romney said. "This is a time for us to come together as a nation. We do not have to have the kind of divisiveness and bitterness and recriminations we've seen over the last four years. I will bring us together."

Supporters here said they were happy to hear Romney return to the themes of his convention speech, with even long-time Romney backers like Sheila Bender of Lebanon, Ohio, telling NBC News that the convention speech helped her learn more about the man she planned to vote for in November.

"The convention helped me to get to know him a little bit better, Bender said, adding "I learned a lot."

Democrats quickly hit back at Romney's speech, calling his campaign promises empty, with Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith labeling them "the same failed policies that crashed our economy and devastated the middle class in the first place and are promises the middle class just can’t afford."

Introducing Romney in a red golf shirt with the Cincinnati Reds logo on it, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman also used a sports metaphor, this time a baseball one, to praise the GOP ticket:

"So Cincinnati, what about those Red Legs," Portman asked. "Last night the team that has won the most games in baseball has won again, with a home run by Jay Bruce ... I see another world series title coming to Cincinnati folks! And here's what else I see: with a home run by Mitt Romney at the Republican convention, I see the Romney/Ryan team going all the way to the White House."