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Romney turns Obama's attacks back against the president

As President Obama and Mitt Romney campaigned heavily in the battleground state of Ohio on Thursday, new polls show neck-and-neck race in Colorado with both candidates tied at 48 percent; meanwhile in Nevada, the president still holds a slight advantage. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.


Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has appropriated for himself one of President Barack Obama's most potent lines of attack throughout this election.

If there is a candidate who represents the status quo and whose plans for the next four years are hazy, it's Obama, as Romney tells it. 

It's the same charge the Obama campaign has used against Romney -- with great effect -- for most of 2012. But in a stroke of irony, the Republican nominee has turned the attack back toward the president, with a degree of success. 

"This election is a choice between the status quo," Romney said during a major speech on Friday in Iowa, "or choosing real change."

Governor Mitt Romney addressed a crowd of supporters in Ames, Iowa, touting himself as a candidate of change and promising to "bring that kind of change, real change to our country."

The former Massachusetts governor has stumped for most of this week by calling himself the candidate of "big change," claiming for himself the mantle of "change" that Obama had first powerfully represented in 2008. 

Moreover, Romney has begun ridiculing Obama's plans for a second term as thin and vague at best. 

"You see the President’s campaign is slipping, the president’s campaign is slipping because he can't find an agenda. He's been looking for it -- there's only 12 days left," Romney said at a rally Thursday in Ohio. "He hasn't had a chance to defend it or to describe it to the American people in our debates and so the American people now have to recognize that given the big challenges and the big election we have it's time for a big change." 

NBC's Chuck Todd and David Gregory weigh in on the candidates' closing arguments as the presidential race comes down to the wire. Their messages: Mitt Romney promises change while President Obama argues for trust.

If Romney's offensive seems familiar, that might be due to its similarities to many of Obama's own attacks on the Republican nominee. 

The president, for instance, has sought throughout the campaign to link Romney to former President George W. Bush, arguing that little has changed in Romney's proposals from the last Republican to inhabit the White House. 

"We can’t afford to go backwards to the same policies that got us into this mess; we’ve got to go forward with the policies that are getting us out of this mess," Obama said yesterday at a rally in Virginia. 

Charlie Neibergall / AP

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivers his speech on the economy during a campaign stop at Kinzler Construction Services, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012, in Ames, Iowa.

And Obama mocked Romney's jobs plans as nonsensical and insubstantial, much as Romney has begun to do of Obama's second-term agenda. 

"I’ve got a plan that will actually create jobs, not just talk about creating jobs -- a plan that will actually create middle-class security, not just use the words but not deliver on the promise," Obama said at the same rally in Richmond. "Unlike my opponent, I’m actually proud to talk about what’s in my plan, because the arithmetic works." 

But Romney has been able to turn these criticisms back against Obama precisely because voters suggest that they are seeking change, even if Obama is re-elected. Sixty-two percent of registered voters, for instance, said in this week's NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that Obama should make "major changes" in a potential second term. 

Obama's campaign also produced a new, glossy pamphlet -- which packages many of Obama's existing jobs proposals, which have met defeat on Capitol Hill -- in a glossy pamphlet. Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan ridiculed it as a "comic book" during a rally Thursday in Virginia. 

"President Obama really hasn’t given us a vision for a second term agenda. Just a couple of days ago he came up with a slick new brochure, with less than two weeks left to say, 'Oh I do actually have an agenda,'" he said. "It is ... a slick re-packaging of more of the same." 

That Obama hasn't laid out much of a comprehensive second term agenda -- combined with the overall thirst for "change" among many voters -- has only aided Romney and Ryan's ability to sidestep many of the questions about their own plans that had dogged the Republican ticket for much of the election. When asked about the difficult arithmetic or politics underlying Romney's proposals, Republicans are arguing in the closing days of the election that Obama has hardly offered better. 

In an interview on Friday with radio host Michael Smerconish, the president dismissed Romney's claim to "big change" -- by again voicing his familiar criticism of Romney. 

"What Gov. Romney's offering is a return to policies that have failed us in the past," Obama said. "He's now talking about them as 'big changes.' They're not big changes; they're a repeat, a relapse, of things that haven't worked for American families for over a decade now."