DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is criticizing President Barack Obama's handling of the national debt in Iowa, a Midwestern battleground he hasn't visited since the state's leadoff nominating caucuses.
Romney's speech Tuesday afternoon in Des Moines is expected to promote spending discipline, a turn from the social issues that marked the campaign last week. Obama announced on Wednesday that he supports gay marriage, then Romney reiterated his opposition to same-sex unions.
Romney and Obama returned to the campaign's top issues, jobs and the economy, on Monday. Romney has argued that the nation's debt is choking the economic recovery and has criticized Obama for spending programs including the 2009 economic stimulus and the 2010 health care overhaul.
"We have a real philosophical difference here in this presidential election coming up," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a Romney supporter. "This is right where I want the debate to be."
Obama sought Monday to blunt one of Romney's chief campaign arguments, that the former private equity firm executive is better suited to guide the economy to more rapid growth. Obama's campaign aired a new television ad accusing Romney of costing jobs at a Kansas City, Mo., steel mill that his company failed to restructure.
Romney countered that while at Bain Capital and as governor of Massachusetts he helped create tens of thousands of public and private sector jobs. His campaign released its own Web video promoting his time at Bain.
Although Romney's private-sector experience has been used against him before, Obama's campaign is introducing the argument in battleground states ahead of the general election. One of his rivals for the Republican nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, characterized Romney as a corporate raider before the New Hampshire primary in January.
Obama is airing the ad in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, all states Obama won in 2008 and viewed as competitive this year.
Romney's visit also returns the political spotlight to Iowa, where both campaigns see opportunity in their battle for the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency.
Romney finished in a near-tie for first place in the state's Jan. 3 caucuses. Obama won Iowa's Democratic caucuses four years ago and carried the state in the general election.
Obama was more aggressive in visiting Iowa this spring as Romney continued to campaign for the GOP nomination.
Obama's new ad marks his fifth this year. The campaign has spent more than $2.5 million on advertising for Iowa, which will yield only six electoral votes. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their wives have visited the state this year.
Romney has campaigned recently in Colorado, Ohio and Virginia, as well as in GOP-leaning Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma for fundraisers.