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Romney returns to economy-driven message in Iowa

BETTENDORF, IA -- Mitt Romney returned Wednesday to the core issue of his candidacy -- the economy -- in Iowa, the state that played host to the first nominating contest of the primary cycle.

Following two weeks of distractions, the GOP contender once again focused his remarks on the single animating issue of his campaign: the economy.

“Now the president promised that he was gonna cut the deficit in half. Yeah, it didn’t happen, did it? He’s more than doubled it. He’s added almost as much debt held by the public -- $5 trillion – as all the prior presidents of the country combined," Romney told an audience of more than 1,000 supporters at a factory here in Eastern Iowa. "You look at all of the debt of the country, why it’s about the size of our entire economy. This puts us on a path to become like Europe."

Since the selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney has fought a running battle on the issue of Medicare, aired a series of debunked attacks on welfare reform, and been forced to wade into the controversy of Missouri Rep. Todd Akin's controversial comments on rape. Today in Iowa, he touched on none of the above, instead hammering President Obama over his stewardship of the economy.

Romney was helped in his economic case today by the release of the latest report by the Congressional Budget Office, which said that the 2012 fiscal year would be the fourth consecutive year in which the federal government ran a deficit greater than $1 trillion dollars, and which predicted unemployment would remain above 8 percent for the remainder of the year.

"You see, we don’t have to guess what the future looks like if we stay with the current president," Romney continued. "We can see what’s happening over in Europe."

Democrats quickly responded.

“Mitt Romney today said that a Romney-Ryan White House would make America stronger, but we know that’s not true," Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith said in a statement, calling the Republican platform "the same failed formula that crashed the economy and devastated the middle class in the first place.”

With President Obama campaigning at a high school in Nevada today to tout his education policies, Romney also engaged on the subject, calling for an education system that was competitive on the international stage, and for putting students and their parents ahead of the teachers unions, a favorite Romney bogeyman.

Even Romney's attack lines on education had an economic tinge to them.

"You have got to make sure that we create jobs in this country so that people coming out of school can get a good job, Romney said, laying out his education goals with advice to President Obama. "You don't max out their credit card if you will by giving them something that they're having to pay for down the road plus interest, what you do is you make sure that we do not pass on trillions of dollars in debts to the next generation."