By Ginger Gibson and Juana Summers
Both Mitt Romney and his running mate attacked President Barack Obama for his energy agenda on Tuesday as they campaigned separately in the important swing states of Ohio and Colorado.
Romney visited a coal mine in Ohio and accused Obama of being a less-than-friendly president for the domestic energy industry.
"His vice president said coal is more dangerous than terrorists. Can you imagine that?" Romney said to a crowd of soot-covered miners. "This tells you precisely what he actually feels and what he's done and his policies over the last three- and-a-half years have put in place the very vision he had when he was running for office."
Standing next to a backhoe bucket filled with raw coal, Romney told the crowd that Obama, who is speaking today in Iowa, is running ads in the key swing state of Ohio saying he supports coal while telling other audiences that he thinks the nation needs only wind and solar power.
"I thought, how in the world can you go out there and tell people things that just aren't true?" Romney asked. "If you believe the whole answer for energy needs is wind and solar, then say that. I know he says that to some audiences out West. Then just say it."
Meanwhile, in Lakewood, Colo., Romney's new running mate, Wisconsin lawmaker Paul Ryan attacked Obama for doing "all he can to make it harder for us to use our own energy."
Obama, Ryan said, has a cap-and-trade agenda "designed to make energy more expensive. His EPA has given us an unprecedented barrage of burdensome regulations," Ryan told an exuberant crowd at a local high school. "He has ten different agencies and 4 executive offices regulating hydraulic fracturing. We think Coloradans know how to take care of this themselves. We want you to decide."
Ryan said he can relate to the pain local residents are feeling at the gas pump.
"You know, last week when I was filling my truck up [with] -- something tells me I'm not going to be putting gas in my truck any time soon -- last week when I was filling my truck up it cost $100 bucks," Ryan said. "The only reason it cost $100 bucks is because the pump cut me off at $100, I didn't even fill the gas tank. Enough! We have our own oil and gas. We have nuclear, we have all of the above. Wind, solar, coal, let's use it. Let's make our own energy."
While Ryan's remarks here were focused mostly on energy, he also charged President Obama with failing to keep his campaign promises or chip away at the caustic nature of Washington politics.
"He promised to change the tone and the culture in Washington. And so, here's where we've arrived," Ryan said. "He can't run on his record, he hasn't changed his tune, so all that he has left is to distort, to demagogue, to divide, to try and confuse, to distract you from the real issues in this election."
"You've gone from hope and blame -- from hope and change, to attack and blame," Ryan said, bungling the phrase that's been synonymous with the Obama campaign. "But here's what's a little more concerning in my opinion about this. He's speaking to people as if we're divided from one another, not unified. He's speaking to people as if we're stuck in our station in life."
By contrast, Ryan said he and Romney "would not duck the tough issues, we're going to lead."
The White House and the Obama campaign have spent months working to counter GOP allegations that the president has "declared war on coal." The Obama campaign's Ohio radio ad touts the administration's support for "clean coal" and takes aim at Romney for denouncing a Massachusetts coal-fired power plant in 2003 while he was governor.
Romney, for his part, used Tuesday's campaign stop to dredge up familiar GOP attack lines on the president's energy agenda.
The GOP standard-bearer pointed to 2008 comments by then-candidate Obama that electricity prices will "necessarily skyrocket" under his cap-and-trade proposal, which was never enacted. Romney also pointed to 2007 comments by then-Sen. Joe Biden that he viewed coal-fired power plants as more likely than terrorists to contribute to the death of the average American.
"That does not in any way diminish the fact that a terrorist attack is real. It is not an existential threat to bringing down the country, but it does have the capacity still to kill thousands of people," Biden said at the time, adding that "hundreds of thousands of people die and their lives are shortened because of coal plants."
The Obama campaign countered Tuesday that the president has invested billions in clean coal technology and helped grow jobs in the coal industry. "This record stands in stark contrast to Mitt Romney's. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney spoke out against coal jobs, saying that a coal-fired plant "kills people.' This is just another issue where the American people can't trust Mitt Romney to be honest with them," the campaign said in a statement.
Romney's visit to the coal mine is on the last day of a four-state bus tour and will include two more events in Ohio. In Ohio, Romney appeared with Sen. Rob Portman and Ohio Senate candidate and state Treasurer Josh Mandel.
Romney pleaded with the crowd not to listen to what Obama is saying about energy.
"Don't listen to the words, look at where we've been," Romney said. Obama "is an elegant spokesman."
After the event, spokesman Kevin Madden told reporters that Romney's view is that coal is an important source of energy but wouldn't answer questions about the candidate's opposition to a coal-powered plant in Massachusetts while he was governor.
Romney also sought to hit Obama on Medicare, part of an attempt in recent days to paint the Democrats as trying to destroy the health care program for senior citizens that is an integral part of Ryan's budget plan.
Romney attempted a personal appeal, pointing out that every employee has a paycheck deduction for a trust fund to provide them health care coverage after they turn 65.
"You know that every time you get a paycheck, you see there's a deduction there -- it's going to Medicare, it's going into a trust account to make sure that when you retire that there's a health program there that'll care for you," Romney said. "One of the things the president did, which I find extraordinary, something he never mentioned when he was running for office.
"You see, when he ran for office he said he'd protect Medicare, but did you know that he has taken $716 billion out of the Medicare trust fund? He's raided that trust fund -- and you know what he did with it? He's used it to pay for "Obamacare' -- a risky, unproven, federal government takeover of health care -- and if I'm president of the United States we're putting the $716 billion back."
Romney tried to hammer home his economic message, particularly as the crowd didn't seem to respond to the social-message attacks that often garner him cheers on the campaign trail.
"I will do everything in my power to make sure you keep good jobs and good wages," Romney said.
He implored the miners to convince just one other person to vote for his ticket, saying that the election could be won in southeastern Ohio.
"We're going to rebuild the middle class in America," Romney said. "We're not going to have to live paycheck to paycheck as we have this last three-and-a-half years. We're tired of being tired. We want to have someone to lead the country again back to greatness for all of us."