By David Eggert
Mitt Romney stopped in his native state on the last day of a swing through battleground states won by Barack Obama in 2008, telling Michiganders to give him chance to avoid seeing the United States turn into Europe.
"I do not want to become Europe," he told hundreds at a rally outside the Bavarian Inn Lodge in the German-themed tourist town of Frankenmuth, southwest of Saginaw. "I want to restore the principles that made America the powerhouse of the Earth."
Romney, who grew up in the Detroit area, warned the crowd to "look across the pond" to Spain and Greece, where high unemployment and debt are wreaking havoc.
If elected, the Republican presidential candidate said he would approve the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada, repeal Obama's signature health-care law and put the country on track toward having a balanced budget.
"With this president in office, (the debt) is going to get worse and worse and worse," Romney said during a 15-minute speech.
"I love this country. I hope you understand the consequence of what we're talking about."
Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette - both Republicans - also spoke to the crowd but took different approaches. Schuette criticized Obama directly, while Snyder focused on "Washington" in general, calling the federal tax code a "disaster."
"Mitt is a person that has a vision, that has a plan and will act," Snyder said.
The Obama campaign and Michigan Democrats said Tuesday that Romney's economic policies would be bad for Michigan. Democrats criticized Romney policies that they say would have allowed the state's auto industry to fail.
U.S. Rep John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, said Obama showed courage related to the auto industry.
"The American auto industry has come roaring back," Dingell said.
Dingell said Romney's policies "would make our economy worse."
Gretchen Whitmer, a Democratic state senator from East Lansing, said Romney has "no clue" what Michigan's middle class families are going through.
Frankenmuth is a city of German ancestry known for the Bavarian Inn Lodge, chicken dinners at Zehnder's restaurant and Bronner's, the world's largest Christmas store.
Romney said Monday that winning Michigan would give him the presidency.
The swing through central Michigan caps a five-day tour of six battleground states - all won by Obama in 2008. A Republican presidential candidate has not won Michigan in 24 years, when George H. W. Bush did it.
Though some polls in the past five weeks have shown Obama with a comfortable lead here, at least two others have him essentially tied with the former Massachusetts governor.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said last week he expected Michigan to be a close race.
Before the rally, Romney held a roundtable for about 10 business owners inside the lodge.
He next stops in DeWitt north of Lansing for a brief early afternoon visit to the Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe, whose owner has won various national pie-making championships.
The last - and final - stop of his multi-state small-town tour is a night rally at Holland State Park along Lake Michigan.
Tim Martin contributed to this report.