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CINCINNATI—Former Gov. Mitt Romney kicked off a daylong bus tour through this battleground state by repeatedly promising "big change" if he is elected in November, invoking the word no less than a dozen times at a rally here.
By contrast, Romney is painting his opponent as a status quo candidate, saying President Barack Obama won't do enough to get the country's economy back on track.
"This is a critical time for our country, and the choice of paths we choose will have an enormous impact," Romney told a crowd of a few thousand people at a machinery company. "We have huge challenges. ... These challenges are big challenges. This election is therefore a big choice. And America wants to see big changes, and we're gonna bring big changes to get America stronger again."
For the second day in a row, Romney painted a stark picture of the country should Obama win re-election next month—peppering his remarks with mentions of possible effects on key voting blocs such as women and the middle class.
Speaking to an audience that hung on his every word, Romney talked about "a single mom" struggling to support her kids and a dad working two jobs "so he can afford to buy his kids the clothes that won't make them stand out from the other kids at school." He spoke of a "mom and dad" skipping Christmas gifts for themselves to offer their kids a better holiday.
"This is the American character to live for things we find more dear than ourselves. Our family. Our faith. Our community. Our schools. Our nation. This is a time of enormous consequence for America," Romney said. "And so we come together, you come together on a day like this to see someone running for president. This election is not about me. It's not about the Republican Party. It's about America. And it's about your family."
He repeatedly claimed his Democratic rival has offered no new answers about how to lead the country forward.
"The path we're on—the status quo path—is a path that doesn't have an answer about how to get the economy going, that doesn't know about how to get the private sector to start creating jobs or how to build take-home pay," Romney declared. "The path we're on does not have new answers. The president has the same old answers as in the past—he wants another stimulus, he wants more government workers, and he wants to raise taxes. There is no prospect whatsoever that that path will help our economy grow and put people to work and raise take-home pay."
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith rejected Romney's claims, telling reporters in an email that the GOP nominee is simply "going back to the same failed policies that caused the economic crisis."
Romney's visit here came as a new Time poll found Obama leading his GOP rival by 5 points, 49 percent to 44 percent. But the Romney campaign isn't giving up on the state. He will hold two more events on Thursday and will return to the state Friday, after a brief visit to Iowa. His running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, kicks off a two-day bus tour through Ohio Saturday.
Romney encouraged the audience to "vote early" and to try to get Obama supporters to back his cause.
"Go out there and find some people," Romney said. "Bring them to the polls. And, by the way, if there's someone who doesn't have a ride to the polls, help them get to the poll."