Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is launching an aggressive Republican response at the site of the Democratic National Convention aimed at stealing attention and driving new questions about President Barack Obama's leadership on the eve of his nomination for a second term.
As thousands of Democratic activists gather in Charlotte on Monday, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan will campaign 230 miles to the east in Greenville. Aides say the Wisconsin congressman will focus on a simple question reflecting a message that staffers and surrogates will deliver in North Carolina and across the nation: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
Polling suggests the line of criticism may resonate with voters who continue to like Obama personally but are frustrated with the pace of economic recovery two months before Election Day.
"Team Obama can't say the country is better off after four years," said Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer. "This will be the most effective counter-programming effort ever conducted by the GOP."
A Republican staff of roughly 50 has gathered in a temporary headquarters just outside the perimeter of the Democratic convention site. The Romney team, backed by the RNC, will host daily news conferences, release Web videos and feature prime-time speakers including South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio initially was scheduled to visit Charlotte as well, but he likely will not because of a personal conflict, according to a Republican aide. Priebus will be on hand Monday afternoon for a news conference launching the "Obama Isn't Working" rapid response center in Charlotte.
Romney, meanwhile, will spend much of the week in New Hampshire and Vermont preparing for three fall debates with Obama, the first on Oct. 3. Ryan will play a more prominent role in day-to-day campaigning during the week. After visiting in North Carolina on Monday, he was scheduled to campaign Tuesday in Ohio and Iowa. Visits to Colorado, California and Washington state also were being planned.
The Romney campaign has distributed fresh talking points to supporters seizing on the idea that Obama has failed to deliver.
One talking point reads: "Every president since the Great Depression, except Jimmy Carter and President Obama, who asked voters for a second term could look back at the last four years and say: 'You are better off today than you were four years ago.' No president has ever asked to be re-elected with this many Americans out of work."
Asked the "better off" question — a staple of presidential campaigns — Obama adviser David Plouffe sidestepped a direct answer, telling ABC's "This Week": "We've clearly improved ... from the depths of the recession." Another Obama aide, David Axelrod, told "Fox News Sunday": "I think the average American recognizes that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in January of 2009. And it's going to take some time to work through it."
In the most recent Associated Press-GfK poll, 28 percent said they were better off than four years ago, while 36 percent said they were worse off and 36 percent said they were in about the same financial position.
Another Republican talking point suggests there is only one remedy: "If we want a new direction, we need a new president."