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Romney pauses debate prep to criticize Obama

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — President Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney, will return Friday to the states where the presidential race began, crisscrossing paths as they both campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire.

On Thursday, as Obama prepared to accept his party’s nomination, Romney emerged from three days of debate preparations to criticize the Democratic incumbent for failing to keep his promises to Americans.

“Over the last four years, the president has said he was going to create jobs for the American people and that hasn’t happened. He said he would cut the deficit in half, and that hasn’t happened. He said that incomes would rise and instead incomes have gone down,” Romney said as he stood near the New Hampshire statehouse with veterans working for his campaign. “I think this is a time for him not to start restating new promises, but to report on the promises he made. I think he wants a promises reset.”

Romney will take that message to Sioux City, Iowa, on Friday when he holds a midday rally in the state that launched Obama’s presidential campaign four years ago. Obama will hold a grass-roots event with his wife, Michelle, and Vice President Joe Biden at Strawbery Banke Museum in downtown Portsmouth, N.H. The two men will then switch swing states: Romney returns to New Hampshire for an evening rally in Nashua, while Obama flies to Iowa City for an event at the University of Iowa.

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Romney has spent the last few days in a pastoral corner of Vermont, at the home of his former Massachusetts lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, preparing for October’s three presidential debates. Many of his top advisors made the trip to help critique his mock debates with Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who is serving as the stand-in for Obama (as he did for 2008 Republican nominee John McCain).

Several of Romney’s top advisors said the televisions weren’t on during the stay, and many of them found themselves out of cellphone range, forcing both the candidate and his aides to focus on the three crucial debates in October. Though the debates are somewhat distant, advisors viewed the week of the Democratic convention as a rare opportunity to break away for a sustained period.

They also acknowledged that the candidate tends to “over-prepare” and was eager to get started on his mock debates with Portman. After each session, he would take a break to talk with advisors about what went well and what needed improvement.

The famously competitive Romney admitted that Portman had gotten the better of him in their first few sessions. “I’m just glad I won’t be debating Rob Portman in the final debates,” he told reporters Wednesday during a stop at a pizza place in West Lebanon, N.H., near a building supply company where he did a series of interviews.

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As for the Democratic convention? “I haven’t watched so far,” Romney told the small group of reporters traveling with him on Thursday. Asked whether he would watch Obama’s remarks Thursday, he initially said, “Don’t plan on it.”

But a few minutes later he doubled back to reporters, telling them he’d heard that Obama would be alluding to some of the promises that he made in his 2008 campaign.

“I hear the president’s going to report on the promises he made and how he has performed on those promises. I’d love to watch it,” Romney said. “But if it’s another series of new promises that he’s not going to keep, I have no interest in seeing him, because I saw the promises last time. Those are promises he did not keep, and the American people deserve to know why he did not keep his promises.”

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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