Speaking in battleground Ohio, before the president's planned economic speech in a different part of the state, the likely Republican presidential nominee assailed his Democratic rival's policies.
"Don't forget, he's been president for three and a half years. And talk is cheap. Actions speak very loud," Romney said. "If you want to see the results of his economic policy, look around Ohio, look around the country."
"What he says and what he does are not always the exact same thing," the former Massachusetts governor said.
Romney addressed a crowd of about 100 from a manufacturing plant of Selikop Industries, the type of small-business facility that's become a standard venue for the Republican's campaign stops. He was in Cincinnati, a Republican stronghold in the state near the Kentucky border.
Romney's campaign had billed the appearance as a dueling event to the president's major economic speech at a college gym in Cleveland, in the Democratic northeastern region of Ohio. But what Romney delivered was his standard, 20-minute campaign speech, castigating the president for the economic stimulus, the health care law and for not approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Romney also criticized the president's policies toward China and said that, if elected, he would label the country as a currency manipulator.
Romney started his speech 15 minutes earlier than originally planned, which meant he finished speaking before Obama took the podium.
The last time Romney and Obama held competing events was in late May, when the likely GOP nominee visited the shuttered California headquarters of the solar energy company Solyndra and Obama welcomed George W. Bush back to the White House for the unveiling of his presidential portrait. Then, cable TV networks went with coverage of Obama over his challenger. On Thursday, both candidates' garnered broadcast coverage — with Romney getting first dibs.
Romney strategist Stuart Stevens would not say if the campaign decided to start earlier to avoid a direct conflict with Obama.
Still, Obama's team was closely monitoring Romney's event in Ohio. "Threatening to label China a currency manipulator is reckless and unnecessary," Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement after Romney's speech. She called Romney's positions on China a "campaign-year conversion."
Associated Press writer Philip Elliott in Washington contributed to this report.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)