CONCORD, N.H. -- Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney blamed President Barack Obama Monday morning for Standard & Poor's decision to downgrade U.S. debt, saying the nation risks losing its sovereignty if it does not take "corrective action."
"The failure of the president to reignite this economy and get people back to work is one of the reasons we're seeing such high levels of deficit and why the debt continues to grow at such an alarming rate," Romney said.
"We need to put more Americans back to work and I'm afraid the president is just out of his depth when it comes to understanding how the private economy works."
S&P's decision Friday night to downgrade U.S. debt from AAA to AA+ was, according to Romney, due largely to promises the federal government has made to entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
"A nation just can't pay this much back," Romney said.
The former Massachusetts governor took the unusual step of addressing reporters before the first of three campaign events in the Granite State, injecting his voice into the news cycle on the first morning of trading after the downgrade.
Talking a few minutes later with local business and civic leaders, Romney grew animated when arguing that Obama's policies have "so frightened the private sector" that employers are avoiding the risk of expansion.
"Sorry to get upset like that," Romney said, but his voice continued to rise. "Only if America's economy continues to lead the world can we be sure of our freedom long term."
"There are bad people in the world that would like to subject other people to their control. We have to have a strong and capable economy to protect ourselves," he said. "We've got to get serious about this and take corrective action."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened the day Monday down 200 points, around 11,250, and had dropped another 150 points by mid-morning. European and Asian markets were also down significantly.
Romney's comments punctuated his appearance in the state that votes first in the Republican primary process, soon after Iowa Republicans will hold their caucus. Romney is not seeking to win Iowa but he will be expected to emerge victorious here next winter.
Yet he has been off to a slow start in terms of retail campaigning. Since announcing his exploratory committee on April 11, Monday marked only his tenth day of campaign events in the state, according to a spokesperson. That does not include the day he spent in Manchester for the June 14 debate.
Romney has come under some criticism for keeping such a low profile, and his representatives have promised that this week -- with another debate coming Thursday in Iowa and the Ames Straw Poll on Saturday -- will mark a new, high-intensity phase in his campaign.