By Rachel Streitfeld
Chillicothe, Ohio (CNN) — Mitt Romney looked to seize the offensive in his campaign against President Barack Obama Tuesday night with a hard-charging and sustained attack on the president’s leadership.
Calling Obama “intellectually exhausted,” Romney charged his rival had made “wild and reckless accusations that disgrace the office of the presidency” and failed to live up to the promises he made as a candidate in 2008.
“Another outrageous charge just came a few hours ago in Virginia,” Romney said of Vice President Biden’s warning that Romney would put them “back in chains.”
“And the White House sinks a little bit lower,” he said.
Romney’s speech on the streets of downtown Chillicothe – the last event on his swing-state bus tour – was elaborately produced. The campaign blocked off several city blocks and hung a giant flag behind the site where Romney would emerge from his campaign bus to be greeted by throngs of supporters waving signs and flags.
On-stage, Romney cast himself as a patriot who would return America to its heyday of prosperity.
“Everywhere I go in America there are monuments that list those who have given their lives for liberty,” Romney said. “There is no mention of their race, their party affiliation or what they did for a living. They lived and died under a single flag fighting for a single purpose. They pledged allegiance to the United States of America.”
Romney continued: “So Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago and let us get about rebuilding and reuniting America.”
The speech came as Romney’s campaign released a TV ad attacking Obama on Medicare – a hot-button issue Democrats have aimed to wield against Romney after he chose Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan authored a controversial plan in the House to reshape Medicare for those under age 55.
A spokesman for the Obama campaign immediately fired back at Romney’s speech, in another sign the Romney-Obama battle was quickly turning more negative.
“Gov. Romney’s comments tonight seemed unhinged, and particularly strange coming at a time when he’s pouring tens of millions of dollars into negative ads that are demonstrably false,” said Obama campaign Press Secretary Ben LaBolt.
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