Updated at 3 p.m. ET
AMES, Iowa--Building on his new closing mantra of "big change," Mitt Romney said on Friday in an economic speech that he is the candidate whom Americans sought in President Obama four years ago, someone who "will take responsibility to solve the big problems that everyone agrees can't wait any longer."
"Four years ago, candidate Obama spoke to the scale of the times," Romney said. "Today, he shrinks from it, trying instead to distract our attention from the biggest issues to the smallest--from characters on Sesame Street and silly word games to misdirected personal attacks he knows are false."
Though billed as a major address, the remarks amounted to a reprise of the arguments that Romney has been making for months--that the president's "trickle-down government policies" have not achieved a sufficient economic recovery.
Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod tweeted his reaction: "Who says Mitt doesn't believe in recycling? Hyped speech was greatest hits reel of dishonest attacks, phony promises with NO specifics."
And in an interview with Bloomberg TV, Obama senior adviser David Plouffe labeled Romney's "big change" a "big relapse to the same economic policies that devastated the middle class and our economy."
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith cited Romney's assertion that he would "restore the $716 billion President Obama has taken from Medicare to pay for his vaunted Obamacare." The health care law limits payments to health care providers and insurers to try to reduce the rapid growth of future Medicare spending -- something that the fact-checking website PolitiFact pointed out when Paul Ryan made a similar claim.
Democrats noted that Ames' Kinzler Construction Services, where Romney gave his speech, received a $1.25 million loan through Obama's stimulus program. Kinzler also got $700,000 in other stimulus money.
In the speech, Romney was careful to repeat his promise that he and Ryan -- whose ambitious plans for Medicare have come under withering Democratic criticism -- will maintain the social-safety net, although he did not include any specifics.
"We'll save Medicare and Social Security, both for current and near retirees, and for the generation to come.... We'll reform healthcare to tame its growth in the costs that's been going skyrocketing, to provide for those with pre-existing conditions as well, and to assure that every American has access to healthcare," he said. "We're going to replace government choice in health care with consumer choice, bringing the dynamics of the marketplace to a sector that's too long been dominated by government."
Smith said that Romney "won't protect Social Security -- both he and Paul Ryan have supported privatization of Social Security in the past." Independent fact-checkers, however, have said Romney's position has become firmer since he was open to privatization in 2007 and is now similar to what Vice President Al Gore proposed in 2000.
The former Massachusetts governor touted his record in the Bay State and optimistically promised bipartisanship, something that voters have clamored for as an alternative to the Republican-induced gridlock in Congress that has slowed or stopped many of Obama's major initiatives. Democrats have disputed that he governed in a bipartisan fashion as governor.
"I know it because I have seen it: Good Democrats can come together with good Republicans to solve big problems," he said. "What we need is leadership to make that happen."