DAVENPORT, Iowa - In his final major speech to Iowa voters before next week's caucuses, Mitt Romney pivoted from his nearly around-the-clock focus on President Obama to target Vice President Joe Biden, encouraging supporters to pity the president's second-in-command.
"You have to feel sorry for Joe Biden," Romney said, speaking in a ballroom at the Blackhawk Hotel in downtown Davenport, where Obama stayed a few months ago. "Four years ago, he warned us about Barack Obama. It turns out he was right. Now, every day, he has to keep quiet about that. And you know how hard that is for Joe."
While Romney had joked last week on the campaign trail in New Hampshire that Biden's editorial in the Des Moines Register was just another "gaffe" by the politician who has come to be known for his off-the-cuff remarks, tonight's speech included a large chunk dedicated to the vice president. In the piece, Biden wrote that Romney "appears satisfied to settle for an economy in which fewer people succeed."
Romney said this evening, "So he wrote a column in the Des Moines Register. He says Republicans don't care. No, Mr. Biden, we do care that under your policies, more Americans have lost their jobs, more Americans are on food stamps, and more Americans have lost their homes. Blaming others is not a plan to get America working. On Jan. 3, Iowa will start our plan to get America working."
Ignoring his fellow GOP rivals in this evening's speech, Romney said it is time for Obama to "step aside," declaring this election one that could "save the soul of America."
"This is an election not only to replace a president," Romney said. "It is an election to save the soul of America.
"If you believe the disappointments of the past few years are a detour, not our destiny, then I am asking for your vote," he said.
With the crowd - a crush of as many as 300 supporters - spilling into the hallways and stairwells of the hotel, Romney himself remarked on the crowd in the Hawkeye state, a place he's often criticized for not visiting enough.
"What a welcome in Davenport," Romney said, just after his wife, Ann, had come on stage promising the gathered Iowans, "Hope is on the way."
Wednesday morning will kick off the first day of a three-day bus tour through Iowa for Romney, a few days after he made a similar tour through New Hampshire.