(CBS News) ATLANTA - Rolling out a new, post-crisis theme on the campaign trail Wednesday, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney slammed President Obama as intent on using government to redistribute wealth in America and said his administration would create wealth by fostering free enterprise.
"He really believes in what I'll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others, then we'll all be better off. It's known as redistribution," Romney said. "It's never been a characteristic of America. ... I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others, but to create wealth for all of us."
Romney also said. "The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class. I do. He does. The question is who can help the poor and the middle class? I can! He can't!"
Speaking at a fundraiser at a Marriott hotel, Romney, with his campaign struggling to regain its footing, gave energetic and even impassioned remarks that were sometimes drowned out by applause from supporters and donors in the room.
(Watch a clip of Ryan's remarks in the video to the left.)
He cited as evidence remarks Obama made in 1998, before he became president. During an event at Loyola University in October of that year, Obama, then an Illinois state senator, said, "I actually believe in redistribution at least at a certain level to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
Romney first made reference to Obama's 14-year-old comments during an appearance Tuesday on Fox News' Neil Cavuto show as part of his effort to control the political damage from a secretly recorded video that shows Romney making disparaging remarks about Obama's supporters. Romney is heard dismissing Obama voters as people who are dependent on government, pay no income tax and believe they are victims.
At the Atlanta event, Romney tied the theme of income redistribution to his by-now customary attack on Obama's "you didn't build that" comment about government help for small business. "It's the same concept," Romney said. "That see, government is responsible for everything that's going on here. And therefore government can take and give as it chooses. It's an entirely foreign concept that will not work, that has not worked. That has never worked anywhere in the world."
Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan echoed the new message at an appearance in Danville, Va.
"President Obama said that he believes in redistribution," Ryan said at a campaign rally. "Mitt Romney and I are not running to redistribute the wealth, Mitt Romney and I are running to help Americans create wealth. Efforts that promote hard work and personal responsibility over government dependency are what have made this economy the envy of the world."
Surrogates for the Romney campaign also held events in 13 states to press the theme and to try to switch the focus back to the economy. The surrogate events took place in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is fighting the redistribution charge with a counter attack that Romney's tax plan will redistribute wealth to the wealthiest Americans by raising taxes on the middle class.
Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said, "While President Obama cut taxes for the typical middle-class family by $3,600 over his first term, the Romney-Ryan plan would actually raise taxes on the middle class by cutting deductions like those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions in order to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires. And they'd make deep cuts to 'handouts,' like student financial aid while turning Medicare into a voucher program, increasing health care costs for seniors - the same group Mitt Romney disparages in private."
Obama's charge is based on an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that evaluated the Romney tax plan with information available on the candidate's website, though it had to make some estimates as well.