Romney vows to restore US strength as Dems counter-attack
Republican candidate Mitt Romney vowed to restore American strength and avert "fiscal calamity" Sunday, as his re-energized presidential campaign drew a furious Democratic response.
With campaign battle lines re-forming, surrogates for President Barack Obama took to Sunday talk shows to cast Romney and his new running mate, Paul Ryan, as bent on dismantling cherished entitlements like public health insurance and pensions for seniors.
But Romney and Ryan sought to portray themselves as the answer to a US economy struggling with high unemployment.
"I've got good news for you. And that is that this nation is going to come roaring back," Romney said with Ryan looking on, amid enthusiastic applause at a rally at a NASCAR stock car racing facility in North Carolina.
Romney attacked Obama as making the United States "more and more like Europe," with its "chronic high unemployment, low wage growth and fiscal calamity right at the door."
"I don't want to be like Europe. I want to be like America," Romney said.
But Democrats mounted a furious counter-attack, casting Romney's choice of running mate as evidence that Republicans want to demolish social programs like Medicare, the politically sensitive public health insurance plan for seniors.
"He's the guy who's the architect of a plan to end Medicare as we know it and turn it into a voucher program and shift thousands of dollars of costs onto senior citizens," said David Axelrod, a senior Obama campaign adviser.
"He's someone who was the architect of a Social Security privatization scheme that was so out there that even George Bush called it irresponsible," he said.
Ryan, a Wisconsin congressman, is the author of a Republican budget and deficit-cutting plan that calls for deep cuts in US spending to deal with what Republicans say are unsustainable levels US spending and debt.
The choice to put him on the Republican ticket was seen by many as a bold, but risky move that will re-focus the US presidential campaign on debt and deficit issues amid the sluggish US economic recovery.
"I think it will be a booster shot within his own party," Axelrod acknowledged. "I think the Tea Party is excited. I think the social conservatives are excited."
"This was a defining choice for Mitt Romney, and now it's also a clarifying choice for the American people," he said.
Democrats and Republican alike described the direction that Romney has taken as one that will set up stark choices for American voters when they go to the polls in November over the role of the federal government.
"And it's a big debate, it's an important debate," said former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who many had thought would be Romney's vice-president pick.
"But unlike the president, they're actually willing to lead, they're actually willing to put meat on the bones, and put specific proposals on the table, and I think the American public will respect and appreciate that."
Some Republicans sought to put some distance between Romney's campaign and Ryan's controverisal plans, particularly the proposal to change Medicare with a voucher system.
"I think that Mitt Romney appreciates and admires the work and the ideas that Paul Ryan has done. But Mitt Romney has his own plan," said Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, on NBC's "Meet the Press."
In recent weeks, Romney has slumped behind Obama in opinion polls, with the incumbent taking a clear lead nationally and in most of the dozen swing states that will decide the November 6 election.
A Fox News national poll out Thursday put Obama at 49 percent to Romney's 40, while a CNN poll had Obama at 52 percent, seven points up on the former Massachusetts governor.
But by picking Ryan, a favorite of small government conservatives, and embarking on a four-day bus tour across battleground states -- expanded to allow voters in Wisconsin to laud their native son on Sunday -- Romney hopes to gain the upper hand in the race.
The two were stumping together Sunday in North Carolina and Wisconsin, but will then part ways, with Romney traveling solo to the biggest battleground states of all, Florida and Ohio.
"This has more to do with expanding our bandwidth," Romney aide Kevin Madden told reporters, dismissing suggestions that Ryan was not going to Florida because of concerns over how the state's big population of retirees would react to his Medicare plans.