By NEDRA PICKLER and STEVE PEOPLES, Associated Press
DEFIANCE, Ohio (AP) — Mitt Romney is trying to close the deal with voters by promising to revitalize the economy, an area where polling shows the Republican presidential nominee has an edge heading into the final days of the campaign.
As President Barack Obama takes a break from the campaign trail, Romney was promoting an economic address in swing state Iowa to help win the dwindling number of voters yet to make up their minds. While the speech was not expected to break new ground, Romney's campaign said he would use it to help crystalize the differences between his and Obama's economic approaches.
"If Paul Ryan and I are elected as your president and vice president, we will endeavor with all our hearts and energy to restore America," Romney said in prepared excerpts his campaign released hours before he was scheduled to deliver the speech. "Instead of more spending, more borrowing from China and higher taxes from Washington, we'll renew our faith in the power of free people pursuing their dreams."
Romney argues in the speech that Obama has no proposals that can meet "the challenges of the times." He dismisses the president's signature legislative achievement as "his vaunted Obamacare" and says he would instead focus on saving Medicare and Social Security. He repeats many of his standard campaign themes: that Obama is focusing on small issues like "characters on Sesame Street and silly word games" and that Romney will improve kitchen-table concerns like health care, job creation and school choice. His signature refrain is that America can't afford another four years like the last four years.
The speech comes the same day the government reported a slight pickup in economic growth in the final such report before the Nov. 6 election.
The pickup to 2 percent from July to September from the 1.3 percent in the second quarter may help Obama's message that the economy is improving. Still, growth remains too weak to rapidly boost hiring. And the 1.74 percent rate for 2012 trails last year's 1.8 percent growth. Romney called the news "discouraging."
"Slow economic growth means slow job growth and declining take-home pay," Romney said in a statement. "This is what four years of President Obama's policies have produced."
The White House had a more positive take on the news in a blog post by Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. "While we have more work to do, together with other economic indicators, this report provides further evidence that the economy is moving in the right direction," he wrote.
An Associated Press-GfK poll out this week shows Romney overtaking Obama as the candidate that likely voters trust more to handle the economy. The poll found 51 percent of those voters surveyed Oct. 19-23 picking Romney, compared to 44 percent for Obama. The two candidates were tied among likely voters on that issue in the previous poll in mid-September.
Still, the two are locked in a dead heat in the nationwide poll. Other surveys show a tight race in the swing states that will decide the election, with the winning candidate needing 270 Electoral College votes.
Obama was pushing back on Romney's criticism on another front — relations with Israel, which could have an impact particularly with Jewish voters in swing state Florida. The Republican has repeatedly criticized Obama for not traveling to Israel as president. Obama visited as a candidate in 2008.