CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After sequestering himself in Vermont while Democrats renominated Barack Obama here this week, Republican nominee Mitt Romney hit the campaign trail Friday and pronounced himself disappointed in the president’s acceptance speech and in a lackluster August jobs report.
Romney also battled back critiques that the Republican convention in Tampa had slighted the military and failed to mention the war in Afghanistan.
“This is a very disappointing time for the American people,” he told Fox News while stumping in Iowa. He used variations of the word four times in a nine-minute interview .
In the interview, Romney responded to some of the criticisms leveled by Democrats during their convention, particularly from former President Bill Clinton, who pointedly said during his speech Wednesday that no president could have repaired in four years the devastated economy that Obama had inherited from George W. Bush.
“Well I could have done a heck of a lot better job than this president has,” Romney said. “I wasn’t elected so that’s kind of moot.”
Romney sought the Republican nomination in 2008 but he dropped from the race after losing in early primaries.
In the interview, Romney said Obama has broken a campaign promise that the unemployment rate, pegged today at 8.1%, would have dropped to 5.4% by now.
“Had he delivered on that promise, there’d be 9 million more jobs in America today than there are,” Romney said. “That was his promise. I am only holding him accountable by the measure that he himself put out to the American people.”
During their convention in Charlotte, Democrats repeatedly mocked Romney for urging that American auto companies be allowed to go bankrupt in 2009, rather than receive the federal bailout that has been credited for their revival.
Romney has often said the charge is unfair, arguing that he advocated a “structured bankruptcy” that he claims would have saved the companies as well.
He told Fox News he’s looking forward to debating the president on the topic. Their first debate is scheduled for Oct. 3.
“I don’t think many people understand that the president took the car companies into bankruptcy,” said Romney. “They went into bankruptcy exactly as I proposed, so the difference between us is that I would have done it earlier than the president did and saved the American taxpayers about $20 billion.”
In response, Obama for America spokeswoman Lis Smith accused Romney of trying to “rewrite history.”
“GM and Chrysler are in existence, creating jobs, and posting some of their most profitable quarters in history because President Obama bet on American workers,” she said. “If Mitt Romney had had his way, the American auto industry and the more than 1 million jobs it supports would cease to exist.”
In his Fox interview, Romney also defended himself against accusations that he and other Republicans in Tampa, Fla., did not express enough gratitude to the U.S. military in general and to soldiers, airmen and Marines serving in Afghanistan in particular.
Soldiers and combat veterans were prominently featured in the Democratic program in Charlotte, but not in Tampa, which marked a reversal of tradition.
In recent races, the GOP has more or less owned the national security and defense issue. But President Obama ended one war, is winding down a second, and ordered the SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
As a result, polls show Democrats have managed not only to neutralize the issue but effectively recapture it for the first time in decades.
“When you give a speech, you don’t go through a laundry list,” said Romney. “You talk about the things that you think are important, and I described it in my speech by ‘commitment to a strong military,’ unlike the president’s decision to cut our military. And, I didn’t use the word ‘troops,’ I used the word ‘military.’ I think they refer to the same thing.”
He said his visit to the American Legion convention in Indianapolis last month “made a much bigger statement to our military and our troops than the president, who did not go to meet with the American Legion.” Obama spoke to the group by video conference.
Follow Politics Now on Twitter and Facebook