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Romney hammers Obama on national debt

Speaking at a campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, Mitt Romney promises to push America toward a balance budget if he is elected president. Watch his entire speech.

 

WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- With a prop of a giant national debt clock spinning above $16 trillion behind him, Mitt Romney used the nation's spiraling deficit to attack President Obama's economic stewardship at the first stop of his Ohio bus tour this morning.

"When he came into office, there was just over $10 trillion in debt. Now there's over $16 trillion in debt. If he were re-elected, I can assure you it will be almost $20 trillion in debt," Romney said. "And by the way, those debts get passed on to our kids. It's not just bad for the economy; it's not just bad for our job creation; it will -- in my opinion, it is immoral for us to pass on obligations like that to the next generation."

The debt-focused attack comes amid new polling from the New York Times/CBS News/Quinnipiac University showing Romney trailing Obama by 10 points in Ohio, but continuing to lead on the issue of who would best handle the national debt and deficit.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives at a campaign rally at Westerville South High School as a national debt clock runs in the background September 26, 2012 in Westerville, Ohio.

Top Romney aides said Tuesday that they don't base campaign decisions on public polls, but if today's rally was any indication, Romney's own polling data must show similar strength on the issue of the debt and deficits, as it took on an outsize role in his standard stump speech.

"And by the way, do you know what the interest bill is on that debt?" Romney continued. "The interest that you're paying on that debt every year is more than we pay for housing, for agriculture, for education, and transportation combined."

The former Massachusetts governor went on to argue that the Federal Reserve is artificially keeping interest rates low, and that a rise in rates could be catastrophic for the government and, eventually, American families.

As more polls show Mitt Romney trailing President Obama in Ohio, the GOP presidential candidate criticized Obama's tax plans as well as his response to Iran's alleged efforts to build nuclear weapons. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

"That bill’s going to get bigger and bigger. It is crushing. That’s the course this president has put us on,” Romney said.

While Romney did not lay out specifics of his budgetary and deficit-reduction plans today, they center on reforming Medicare, sending some programs like Medicaid back to states, and pegging their growth to inflation, along with slashing domestic spending. He also plans to preserve military spending rates and has proposed a 20% across-the-board tax cut.

A former head of the Congressional Budget Office, Robert D. Reischauer, weighed in on Romney and President Obama's deficit reduction plans in today's New York Times:

“The proposals by Romney are politically unachievable, and the president’s proposals, while achievable, are too modest,” he told the newspaper.

The Obama campaign also weighed in on the event. "There's only one candidate in this race who has a plan to reduce the deficit and that's President Obama. He's already signed $1 trillion in spending cuts into law and proposed a plan that would reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade," Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith said in a statement. "Mitt Romney's $5 trillion in tax cuts weighted toward the wealthiest Americans would either explode the deficit or raise taxes on the middle class by cutting tax deductions middle class families rely on, like those for mortgage interest, children, and charitable contributions."

Romney's appearance here today before a crowd of some 2,000 supporters -- in which he was introduced by golf legend Jack Nicklaus -- marks the first of three stops today on Romney's two-day Ohio bus tour. Today's appearances will mark his 11th day campaigning in this critical state, which no Republican has won the presidency without capturing.

Ray Craig, a retired Navy veteran seeing Romney for the first time this morning rated the former Massachusetts governor positively.

"I think he got more fire in his belly today," Craig said.