Mitt Romney made a pitch to struggling Illinois voters this weekend that he was the "economic heavyweight" who could turn around the economy if elected president in November.
The former Massachusetts governor also ramped up his criticism of President Barack Obama's handling of gas prices, using personal terms to tell an American Legion pancake breakfast in Moline that he knew how high fuel costs affected a family's bottom line.
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"You've got moms that are driving their kids to school and practice after school and other appointments and wonder how they can afford putting gasoline in the car, at the same time putting food on the table night after night," Romney said. "The American people are struggling."
Romney accused Obama of learning about the economy "probably by debating it in subcommittees here in Illinois and subcommittees back in Washington, D.C." and again called for the ouster of three top Obama officials for failing to hold down gas prices.
In previous speeches in his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Romney has said expanding domestic oil production could help lower prices in the long-term.
Repeatedly referring to himself as "an economic heavyweight," Romney said his rivals – including Obama as well as fellow Republican contender Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator – just couldn't stack up.
"Sen. Santorum has the same economic lightweight background that the president has," Romney said, painting himself as the best candidate to take on Obama. "We've got to get an economic heavyweight to replace the economic lightweight."
Romney criticized Santorum as the race for Illinois' delegates shifted into high gear. Voters in the Land of Lincoln head to the polls on Tuesday in the latest battle between the leading Republican contenders.
Over the next two days, Romney will criss-cross the state, with events in Rockford, Vernon Hills, Springfield, Chicago and Peoria.