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Romney brackets Obama with Ohio speech

Updated 4:01 p.m. - LORAIN, OH -- Mitt Romney brought his fledgling general election campaign to the battleground state of Ohio on Thursday, calling out President Obama just a few miles from where the president spoke yesterday.

"This factory is empty. It is owned by National Gypsum. It was closed in 2008 at the beginning of the economic downturn. Had the president’s economic plans worked, President Obama’s plans worked, it would have been open by now," Romney said on the floor of a factory where Obama campaigned as a candidate in February of 2008.

"But it is still empty, And it underscores the failure of this president’s policies with regards to getting the economy going again," Romney said, just miles from Lorain County Community College, where the president visited Wednesday.

The bracketing of the president was intentional, following Romney's own speech Wednesday overlooking the site of the president's renomination speech this fall in Charlotte, and a sign of the long campaign to come.

"You know the other day, I guess it was just yesterday, he was in Ohio. And he said that this campaign is going to come down to his vision…his vision for America. If you want to know where his vision leads, open your eyes because we have been living it the last three years. It leads to lost jobs, lost homes, lost dreams," Romney continued. "It’s time to end that vision and have a vision of growth and jobs and economic vitality!"

The bracketing effort represents part of a broader emerging strategy by the Romney campaign.

"I think what you're going to see over the course of this campaign is a very aggressive effort by Governor Romney to take his case directly to President Obama on his failed leadership," Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters before the speech.

Democrats accused Romney of distorting the president's record by casting the factory, which closed during the Bush administration, as a failure of President Obama's economic policies. Romney's campaign disputed that argument.

“This plant has been struggling to reopen for the past three years," Fehrnstrom said. "In fact the president came here in 2008 to campaign and said it would be his policies that get it back on its feet. He’s failed. It’s been three and half years, and his policies have failed.”

Romney's remarks here followed a similar script as other recent speeches in which the presumptive nominee has looked to play up his economic bonafides and cast the election as a referendum on the president's stewardship of the economy.

The former Massachusetts also accused the president of running a campaign that would "not be about vision, but about division," a refrain that has consistently earned applause from Romney's audiences in recent appearances.

For the Romney campaign, the narrow primary win here last month previews what could be a bitter battle for the state's white, working class voters that could swing Ohio, and the election, for one candidate or another. Romney received the belated endorsement of the state's governor and lieutenant governor today, and while he did not refer to either politician, he tipped his hat to the importance of the Buckeye State in both his opening, and closing, remarks.

"I'm counting on Ohio," Romney said simply, wrapping up his speech.

UPDATE: Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith responded:

“In a speech that he concluded by saying he’d ‘tell the truth,’ Mitt Romney actually didn’t tell the truth about President Obama’s record and his own failed record in Massachusetts—all while blaming the President for a plant closing that occurred before he took office.  Mitt Romney is building quite a record of giving speeches filled with distortions and fabrications. Why does he have such an aversion to the truth?  Contrary to Romney’s rhetoric today, under President Obama’s leadership every working American has received a tax cut, fewer new regulations have been approved than under President Bush, and we’ve gone from losing 750,000 jobs a month when he took office to creating over 4 million private sector jobs in the last 25 months. On the other hand, Mitt Romney’s record in Massachusetts was one of fewer jobs, higher taxes, more debt, and bigger government. And now he is embracing the same failed policies that created the economic crisis and closed the plant where he held his event today: tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and letting Wall Street write its own rules. If Mitt Romney wants to ensure the American people that he will ‘tell the truth,’ he might want to start by getting a new speechwriter.”