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Non-economic issues dominate Romney's pitch to Ohioans


MANSFIELD, OH -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered a scattershot attack on President Barack Obama on Monday, emphasizing a series of issues other than the economy.

Romney veered from his laserlike focus on the economy as several polls released in the aftermath of party conventions suggested that the incumbent president emerged with the advantage. But in looking to get his campaign back on track, the GOP nominee decided to discuss military issues and his commitment to keeping God in the public square, making his focus on the economy (an issue on which he enjoys an advantage over Obama) secondary.

Charles Dharapak / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stands on a table as he addresses an overflow crowd as he campaigns at PR Machine Works in Mansfield, Ohio, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012.

"I will be a president, if elected, that honors that pledge and all the pledges that I make," Romney said at the top of his remarks before a crowd of about 1,200 in swing state Ohio. "That pledge says that we are a nation under God, and if I am president of the United States -- when and if I become president of the United States -- I will not take God out of my heart, I will not take God out of the public square and I will not take it out of the platform of my party."

Romney also served up fresh lines attacking Obama for his handling of last summer's bipartisan deal to raise the debt limit, a deal reached with the approval of both the Republican-controlled house and the president. That deal called for automatic defense cuts to take place in January 2013 if lawmakers couldn't reach some other sort of deal to address the nation's mounting debt. Lawmakers failed to reach a consensus, and the defense cuts loom on the horizon.

In anticipation of the politically difficult defense cuts, Congress earlier this summer passed a law requiring the Obama administration to detail where cuts would fall if they were to reach fruition. But the Obama administration missed the deadline to report back to Congress, giving political fodder to Romney and other Republicans.

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"He won't describe all the jobs that are going to be lost -- no, not probably until after the election," Romney said. "It seems we found one secret relating to national security that he's willing to keep."

Here in Ohio, where the unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, nearly a full point better than the national average, a senior Romney campaign adviser insisted voters were still primarily dialed in to economic issues, including debt and the deficit, and that Romney's economic focus could persuade voters who had not made up their minds.

"The number one issue in Ohio is the same as, I think, the number one issue across the country, which is the economy," Romney senior adviser Kevin Madden told reporters after the event here.

To be sure, Romney, as per usual, laid out his five-point plan for the middle class during today's stop, and hit the president for what he claimed was the administration's lack of a job creation plan. But other economic-based elements of the Romney stump speech were absent, including any mention of welfare reform, and the once ubiquitous "You didn't build that" attack.

While campaign advisers downplayed the significance of Romney's time spent on non-economic issues today, at least one supporter told NBC news that kind of talk was exactly what Romney needed to win over undecided voters in the Buckeye State.

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John Goodwin, a retired firefighter who shares a mutual Mormon faith with Romney, said before the event that Romney needed to communicate his personal values better to wavering voters who don't yet feel they know and trust the man personally.

"If he can take those values and turn them into the presidency, our country will come back," Goodwin said.

In turn, the Obama campaign accused Romney of the very same secrecy for which he attacked Obama.

“What we saw today from Mitt Romney is more of the same evasiveness that has defined his campaign. He said he would repeal Obamacare, but didn’t offer a solution for the 89 million Americans who could be denied coverage if they have a pre-existing condition. He said he would cut taxes, but didn’t say how he’d pay for $5 trillion in tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires without raising taxes on the middle class. And he said he would put students first, but left out how his deep cuts to education would hurt schools. Mitt Romney knows it’s political suicide to level with the American people about his ‘secret’ agenda, so he’s evading the truth at every turn," said Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the president's re-election campaign.