CHANTILLY, Va. (AP) — Kicking off his Virginia campaign, Republican Mitt Romney said Wednesday he'll do "the opposite" of what President Barack Obama has done to help the economy. His wife, Ann, chipped in by appealing to women voters in a key region of a state both candidates will fight over until November's election.
"What I would do? People ask me, 'What would you to get the economy going?' and I say, 'Well look at what the president's done and do the opposite,'" Romney told a group gathered at a warehouse in northern Virginia.
Romney also mocked Obama's recently unveiled slogan: "Forward."
"Forward is his new slogan, and it's like, forward, what, over the cliff?" Romney joked Wednesday night with donors who gathered at the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City, just outside Washington.
Romney was in the Washington area to raise money and hold a series of meetings at the Republican National Committee, where he's working to integrate his campaign with the national party apparatus. He planned a meeting Wednesday with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
Priebus and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell introduced Romney at the evening fundraiser, the first such event that was opened to media coverage. Only two reporters were given access to Romney's 20-minute speech to donors, and no television cameras or photographers were allowed inside.
The northern Virginia suburbs of Washington are a region of a key swing state that will be critical for Romney. Obama won Virginia in 2008 after back-to-back Republican victories by George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Romney aides say driving up Republican turnout in this area of the state could make a difference for the former Massachusetts governor. The campaign moved Iowa operative Sara Craig, partially credited for Romney's stronger-than-expected performance in the Iowa caucuses, to Virginia to run the state in the general election.
The campaign's recent days have been marked by foreign policy issues, with the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. On Wednesday night, Romney made reference to Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist who sought asylum at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, saying that Chen chose the American embassy because the country represents freedom.
But Romney's campaign largely returned Wednesday to familiar themes of the economy and jobs. He painted small businesses as heroes of the economy and said legislation Obama signed to regulate the banking industry has ended up hurting smaller institutions.
"They've gotten bigger; and the small community banks are the ones that have been most hurt," Romney said.
Ann Romney introduced her husband with an appeal to the women in the audience.
"We appreciate all these women being here," she said, noting that Exhibit Edge, the company where the event was held, is run by a woman. "We know what women can do ... how women actually do make the world go round."
Polls have shown Romney trailing Obama by a significant margin among women voters.
As his wife appealed to women, the candidate made a plea for voters to put aside identity politics, saying he has visions of "people coming together in America, of people putting aside differences, putting aside ethnicity, race, gender, just coming together and saying we stand as Americans."