WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Mitt Romney on Friday encouraged young Americans facing bleak job prospects to "take risks" – and even borrow money from their parents – to help improve their economic fortunes.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee noted that the nation's economy is recovering but blamed President Barack Obama for presiding over the "most anemic and tepid" comeback since the Great Depression. Continuing his recent focus on younger voters, Romney said Obama's policies are making it harder for college graduates to be successful.
"This kind ofdivisiveness, this attack of success is very different than what we've seen in our country's history," Romney told students and supporters gathered at Otterbein University in central Ohio. "We've always encouraged young people – take a shot, go for it, take a risk and get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business."
Romney then shared the story of sandwich magnate Jimmy John, who Romney said borrowed $20,000 from his parents to launch his first sandwich shop.
"This is kind of an American experience," he said of John's story.
Romney's call for "economic freedom" was a familiar theme for the former Massachusetts governor, who faced the public for the first time since declaring himself the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting earlier in the week. But some Democrats said his suggestion that young people borrow thousands of dollars from their parents shows that he's out of touch with ordinary Americans.
"Only someone who paid for college by selling stock given to him by his CEO father would just casually assume students could go borrow $20,000 from their parents to deal with the economic challenges they face," said Joshua Dorner, a spokesman for the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
In an interview with the Boston Globe in 1994, Ann Romney said her husband sold off stock that his father had bought for him so that they had money to live on as married college students.
Romney's comments came the same day the Commerce Department reported that the nation's recovery may be slowing, although he ignored the news while speaking at Otterbein University.
"The president is going to want to take credit for the economy getting better, and I am convinced it will get better. Every recession ends. Every recession ultimately becomes a recovery," he said.
Romney added: "This just happens to be the most anemic and tepid recovery we've seen since Hoover."
President Herbert Hoover was in office when the stock market crashed in October 1929 and, as the nation struggled amid an economic depression, lost re-election to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.
The Commerce Department estimated that the economy grew at 2.2 percent over the first three months of the year. That's compared to 3 percent growth in the previous three months.
Romney offered a more measured tone than he had in the final weeks of the competitive phase of the GOP primary season. He did not mention Obama by name in a speech that spanned more than 40 minutes, although he condemned the president's policies that target the wealthy.
"I will try and unite the American people, not divide us," he said.