Romney shifts focus to Obama, vowing to unveil a ‘better America’ if elected

MANCHESTER, N.H--Coming off a clean sweep of all five primaries up for grabs Tuesday, including Pennsylvania and New York, Mitt Romney kicked off his general election pitch, insisting the upcoming campaign will be about the "very different visions" he and President Obama have for the country.

Speaking to a crowd in Manchester, N.H., Romney said the country is suffering from the "failed leadership" and "faulty vision" of the current president and insisted "a better America begins tonight."

"Four years ago, Barack Obama dazzled us in front of Greek columns with sweeping promises of hope and change. But after we came down to earth, after the celebration and parades, what do we have to show for three and a half years of President Obama?" Romney said. "People are hurting in America. And we know that something is wrong, terribly wrong with the direction of the country."

Romney accused Obama not owning up to his missteps and for running a re-election campaign based on "diversions, distractions and distortions."

"That kind of campaign may have worked at another place and in a different time. But not here and not now," Romney said. "It's still about the economy … and we're not stupid."

Notably, Romney did not specifically describe himself as the Republican nominee—in part because he has not amassed the 1,144 delegates he needs to officially clinch the nomination. However, the event left little doubt to how he views his campaign.

Romney took the stage with his wife, Ann, who promptly thanked "everybody" who had turned out to support her husband in the primaries. "Because of you a better America begins tonight," she added

Upon taking the mic, Romney echoed a similar sentiment.

"Thank you, America," Romney said. "After 43 primaries and caucuses, many long days and more than a few long nights, I can say with confidence--and gratitude--that you have given me a great honor and solemn responsibility. And, together, we will win on November 6th."

Echoing speeches he has delivered across the country over the last week, Romney kept his focus largely on Obama, insisting the president is putting the country on a path "where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars."

"We've already seen where this path leads," Romney said. "It erodes freedom. It deadens the entrepreneurial spirit. And it hurts the very people it's supposed to help."

[Related: Can Romney win in Pennsylvania on Nov. 6?]

Romney aides have insisted they aren't worried about the candidate's low favorability numbers compared to Obama after the brusing GOP primary. Still, some aspects of Romney's remarks Tuesday night seemed aimed at a fresh start with voters.

Acknowledging it "has already been a long campaign," Romney said he looked forward to "spending time" with voters personally.

"I want to hear what's on your mind, hear about your concerns and learn about your families," he said. "I want to know what you think we can do to make this country better… and what you expect from your next president. And I'll tell you a little bit more about myself."

Romney talked of the America he envisions should he win the presidency, with a "growing middle class … rising standards of living" and "children more successful than their parents."

"In the America I see, character and choices matter. And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded. And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace," Romney said. "This is the America that was won for us by the nation's Founders, and earned for us by the Greatest Generation. It is the America that has produced the most innovative, most productive, and most powerful economy in the world, with one of the highest standards of living of any major nation."

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