WASHINGTON — White House hopeful Mitt Romney joined the latest chorus of criticism launched by fellow Republicans at President Barack Obama on Wednesday, attempting to take the shine off the Democratic convention.
The Republican nominee, who hunkered down in New England as the Democrats held their gala, emerged from two days of debate preparations to take to try yo spike his opponents’ big guns, like former president Bill Clinton.
“You’ve heard no one stand up and say that people are better off today than they were four years ago,” Romney told reporters in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, where he made brief stops at a supply store and a pizza shop.
“They really can’t say that, they can’t say it in all honesty.”
Republicans have seized on the quadrennial talking point that pops up during every presidential election — “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” — to paint Obama as having failed to deliver on the economy.
Romney has largely stayed above the fray this week, but with buzz building ahead of a Clinton speech, Romney’s supporters highlighted differences between the two Democratic presidents and undermine Obama’s claim on a second term.
John Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor who has served as Romney’s attack dog, said Clinton’s “blast from the past” appearance may well “induce nostalgia for the days of balanced budgets and bipartisan accomplishments.”
But, while Obama will seek to “borrow credibility from the nation’s 42nd president, the contrast between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — particularly when it comes to economic and fiscal issues — couldn’t be greater,” he wrote.
“In ushering in new levels of fiscal recklessness, President Obama doesn’t simply depart from the Clinton legacy — he shatters it with a sledgehammer and runs over it with a steamroller,” he said, in the New Hampshire Union Leader.
Clinton’s 1993 to 2001 administration is credited with creating 22 million jobs and the largest-ever government surplus.
Sununu pointed to Obama’s “dramatic” expansion of government and the addition of more than $5 trillion to the national debt, results of policies that promoted “uncontrolled spending” and “unlimited taxation.”
Romney piled on, saying: “We’ve gone from $10 trillion (of national debt) that the president inherited from all prior presidents to $16 trillion.
“More people have fallen into poverty, one out of six Americans are now in poverty. There’s just no way that he can square those numbers with the idea that America is doing better because it’s not.”
At the supply store, Romney sat for television interviews, including one with a local Fox affiliate in which he said “this has not been a good time for the American people.
“Anyone that wants to let him try it again I think would be making a big mistake,” he said of a second Obama term.
“The great majority of Americans who recognize we are not better off than we were four years ago recognize that his policies are not what is needed to get the middle class growing with more take-home pay and more jobs.”
Among those making the case Tuesday for a second Obama term was First Lady Michelle Obama, who delivered what many critics described as a stunning speech.
Romney declined to take issue with Mrs. Obama, whom polls show is more popular than her husband.
“I didn’t see that (speech) and I’m certainly not going to make any comments about the first lady’s speech other than that I respect her and think she’s a lovely person and a fine mom.”