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Republicans ramp up attacks on president, try to shake his backers

House Speaker John A. Boehner said Wednesday that President Obama "checked out" last Labor Day and has been running for re-election, rather than governing, ever since.

"He's spent the last six months campaigning from one end of the country to the other, instead of working with members of both political parties here in Washington to address the serious challenges that our country faces. He's shrinking from his responsibility to lead, and not having any courage to help tackle these problems," the Ohio Republican told reporters at his weekly news conference.

Boehner's tough talk came a day after he and his Senate counterpart, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, endorsed presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and signaled to the GOP that the time had come to unite behind the former Massachusetts governor.

Their battle joined, Romney savaged Obama's handling of the economy on Wednesday while the commander in chief commiserated up close with victims of the recession and warned that Republicans would only make matters worse.

"Obama is over his head and swimming in the wrong direction" when it comes to the economy, Romney said in a scorching Charlotte, N.C., speech delivered across the street from the football stadium where the president will deliver his Democratic National Convention acceptance speech this summer.

"Even if you like Barack Obama, we can't afford Barack Obama," Romney declared, an evident reference to the president's ability to transcend at least some of the public's dissatisfaction with the pace of the recovery. Romney quoted liberally -- and mockingly -- from Obama's 2008 campaign pledges to repair the economy.

At the same time, Obama sketched his case for re-election in swing-state Ohio, where he met with unemployed workers who have enrolled in job training programs. Then he spoke at the Lorain County Community College.

"Right now, companies can't find enough qualified workers for the jobs they need to fill" locally, he said. "So programs like this one are training hundreds of thousands of workers with the skills that companies are looking for. And it's working." By contrast, he said, between the years 2000 and 2008, Republican policies produced "the slowest job growth in half a century and we've spent the last three and a half years cleaning up after that mess."

Each man taunted the other at times.

"I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth," Obama said in an evident reference to Romney, whose father was president of American Motors, an automaker.

Romney jabbed that unlike four years ago, when Obama walked through stage-set columns at his convention, things would be different this summer.

"You're not going to see President Obama standing alongside Greek columns. He's not going to want to remind anyone of Greece," Romney said, "because he's put us on a road to become more like Greece," where crushing debt has led to an austerity plan and public protests.

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