Romney makes late push in Cleveland

At a rally at the sprawling International Exposition Center before thousands of supporters waving “Cleveland Rocks’’ placards, Romney pledged to “meet regularly’’ with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders,’’ saying he would “endeavor to find those good men and good women on both sides of the aisle who care more about the country than they do politics.’’

Romney, much like Obama in Mentor Saturday, is trying to persuade skeptical independent voters in Ohio that he can put an end to the paralysis on Capitol Hill that nearly caused the federal government to default on its debt a year ago August.

But he was appealing to a broader audience than just those in Ohio. After the rally, Romney flew to the Philadelphia suburbs where he is hoping to win the votes of moderate and liberal Republicans who backed Obama four years ago but have grown weary of the intense partisan bickering in Washington. Pennsylvania last went Republican in 1988.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a key Romney adviser who Sunday joined GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan in Mansfield, cited new polls in Pennsylvania that showed the race tightening. He said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., “laid it out for me how it can happen in Pennsylvania. It’s all about the Philadelphia suburbs.’’

Lis Smith, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, dismissed Romney’s speech, saying that “the American people should be very wary of Mitt Romney’s promises of bipartisanship.’’

“Over the six years that he’s been running for president, he’s been too weak to stand up to the most extreme and divisive voices in the Republican Party and, in fact, has catered to them,’’ Smith said. “If he can’t stand up to the far-right wing now, he certainly wouldn’t as president.”

Romney made his comments on the same day that Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Ryan all campaigned in Ohio, hoping to win the state’s crucial 18 electoral votes.

Romney’s promise to soothe the partisan anger in Washington is similar to the messages of Obama in 2008 and former President George W. Bush in 2000, who liked to say he was a “uniter, not a divider.’’ But both Obama and Bush encountered intense resistance from their political opponents in Congress.

In his speech, however, Romney blamed Obama for the discord on Capitol Hill. Reminding voters that Obama campaigned in 2008 as a “post-partisan president,’’ Romney charged that the president has “been most partisan – he’s been divisive, blaming, attacking, dividing.’’

“Instead of bridging the divide, he has made it wider,’’ Romney said. “You hoped that President Obama would live up to his promise to bring people together to solve big problems. But he hasn’t. And I will.’’

Joe Hallett of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.

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