Mitt Romney told business leaders Wednesday that President Obama is largely responsible for the nation's sluggish economy but that a Romney presidency would mean big changes that would make it easier for them to run their companies.
A day before Obama plans a campaign speech on the economy, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee offered sharp, sometimes stinging, contrasts.
"If you look at his record of the last 3 1/2 years, you will conclude, as I have, that it is the most anti-investment, anti-business, anti-jobs series of policies in modern American history," Romney told about 100 executives at a meeting of the Business Roundtable at Washington's Newseum.
"He is not responsible for whatever improvement we may be seeing," Romney said of Obama. "Instead, he is responsible for the fact that it's taken so long to see this recovery, and the recovery is so tepid."
Get ready, he said, for a "watershed election which will determine the relationship between citizen and enterprise and government."
Obama will talk about his vision today in Cleveland, hoping to boost a campaign that has run into trouble recently. While the two men are close in head-to-head matchups, polls suggest warning signs for Obama on the economy, particularly since a poor jobs report for May sent the unemployment rate back up and suggested a disturbing trend, if sustained, for an incumbent five months before Election Day.
In battleground Pennsylvania, for example, a recent poll found that Obama has the lead overall but that voters there prefer Romney on the economy, the dominant issue. Nationally, Romney now has an edge among middle-income voters, according to a Gallup Poll.
Romney listed some changes he'd try to implement quickly -- changes that could be difficult if Democrats win one or both chambers of Congress.
The National Labor Relations Board, he said, would be "restructured," replacing those friendly to labor. The size of government would be cut. "I'm going to go after government," he said.
More domestic oil exploration would be encouraged. Taxes would be lower. Romney wants to cut marginal income tax rates by 20 percent. He has not specifically addressed how he would make up the revenue loss.
He discounted Obama's speech today as more of the same: "My own view is that he will speak eloquently but that words are cheap and that the record of an individual is the basis upon which you determine whether they should continue to hold onto their job."
Romney found a sympathetic, if somber, audience Wednesday, offering them an indictment of Obama's economic record followed by his own remedies.
"He said as you know, just a few days ago, that the private sector is doing fine," he recalled. "But the incredulity that came screaming back from the American people has caused him, I think, to rethink that."