GOLDEN - Mitt Romney's first campaign appearance since February in the Denver metro area suburbs, likely the key swing region in this critical swing state, focused almost completely on the economy Thursday morning.
Fresh off a six-day overseas trip, the Republican presidential contender is looking to pivot back to domestic issues by unveiling his "Plan for a Stronger Middle Class", an effort to re-frame the former Bain Capital CEO's business background into an asset that will pay dividends for a middle class that's skeptical of corporate America.
"I know how to create jobs and I've got a plan to get America working again," Romney told a crowd of a few hundred supporters as he laid out a five-point plan.
The components of the plan included increasing the country's energy independence by permitting more drilling on federal lands; improving education by allowing more school choice; improving American trade by cracking down on China and opening up new markets; lowering the deficit by lowering taxes and encouraging businesses to grow; and championing small business, also by lowering taxes, reducing regulations and repealing Obamacare.
"We simply can't afford to have more federal spending," Romney said.
"If we do those five things, we'll create 12 million new American jobs. This is the path to more jobs, more take home pay and a brighter future for you and your kids."
The Romney campaign also released what it's calling a "presidential accountability scorecard" to grade President Obama on how well he's produced on promises he made in 2008 when he accepted the Democratic nomination for president at what is now Sports Authority Field in Denver.
"The unemployment rate is still above eight percent. "He said he was going to cut the deficit in half," Romney said. "It's just astounding to have somebody go out and make those promises and be unable to deliver on them. All measures he's laid out are going in the wrong direction."
The Obama campaign is working hard to counter Romney's message by highlighting an independent study published Tuesday that concludes the Romney tax plan, by cutting taxes for millionaires by an average of $87,000 annually, will result in a tax increase of roughly $500 annually for most middle class Americans.
At a press conference in a Lakewood teacher's backyard, state Rep. Max Tyler and DNC Vice Chairman R.T. Rybak laughed at the Romney campaign's refined slogan, "Strengthening the Middle Class", and argued that the GOP challenger's policies would do anything but.
"They're putting up signs that say 'Strengthening the Middle Class' because of that study has shown that they will raise taxes on the middle class by $2,000 apiece," Rybak said. "I don't think it's standing up for the middle class to have a whole bunch of us pay $2,000 more to Mitt Romney so we can help pay for another car elevator in one of his five or six or seven mansions."
Following the speech at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Romney heads to a second campaign event Thursday afternoon with GOP governors in Basalt, just outside Aspen, where he'll hold a fundraiser Thursday night.
Romney chose not to directly address his recently announced position against the renewal of a Production Tax Credit for wind energy providers.
At least six protestors greeted Romney in the parking lot with signs that read: "We work in wind", "PTC = Jobs" and "Don't kill wind jobs."
Eight of nine members of Colorado's congressional delegation, including three of the for Republicans, support extending the wind PTC; and the CEO of Vestas has said that Congress's failure to renew the tax credit will probably cost 1,000 jobs at his company alone.