In the battleground state of Iowa, Republican Mitt Romney called for change in the White House and attacked President Obama's economic policies and leadership, saying the incumbent has failed the nation.
Obama "doesn't have any prospect of meeting the challenges of the times," Romney said. "Americans are ready for change, for growth, for jobs, for more take home pay, and we're going to bring it to them."
Adopting the theme that Obama used to win the presidency in 2008, Romney said he and running mate Paul Ryan represent "real change, change that offers promise, promise that the future will be better than the past."
Romney spoke hours after the Commerce Department said gross domestic product rose at a 2 percent annual rate in the third quarter after climbing 1.3 percent in the prior three months. The median forecast of 86 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 1.8 percent gain.
Romney called Friday's figures disappointing, and said Obama's "misguided" policies "slowed the recovery." He offered no new specifics for policy changes beyond what he's already laid out on the campaign trail.
The GDP reading is one of two government reports to be released before voters go to the polls on Nov. 6 in a presidential race in which the U.S. economy is the dominant issue. On the Friday before Election Day, Nov. 2, the Labor Department will issue jobs data for October.
Payrolls rose 114,000 in September after climbing 142,000 in August, while the unemployment rate dropped to a three-year low of 7.8 percent, the first time it had been under 8 percent in 43 months.
Last night in Ohio, another of the nine states where both campaigns say the election will be decided, Obama said it was Romney who was proposing solutions — such as lower tax rates for all Americans, including the wealthiest — that have been tried and failed.
"We just tried that philosophy in the decade before I took office," Obama said in Cleveland. "And we know what happened. It didn't work."
Romney said Friday it is Obama's push to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and his attempts to jumpstart the economy that haven't succeeded.
"This is not the time to double down on trickle-down government policies that have failed us," Romney said. "It's time for new, bold changes that measure up to the moment and can bring America's families the certainty that the future will be better than the past."
Obama has had a series of positive economic reports in recent to point to as he argues that his policies are helping accelerate the recovery from the worst recession in more than seven decades.
Retail sales in September and August had the best back-to- back showing since late 2010. Cars and light trucks sold at a 14.9 million annual pace in September, the strongest since March 2008, according to Ward's Automotive Group, as Chrysler and General Motors, which were bailed out under Obama, reported gains.
Another area of improvement is the housing market as record-low mortgage rates stoke demand.
Alan Krueger, chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, said in a blog post that while "we have more work to do" Friday's report "provides further evidence that the economy is moving in the right direction."
When Obama took office, U.S. GPD was shrinking at an annualized rate of 8.9 percent and unemployment was at 7.3 percent. The jobless rate peaked at 10 percent in October 2009. While it has since fallen to 7.8 percent last month, the slow climb out of the recession has increased the number of number of discouraged workers by 17.1 percent.
Gross federal debt has increased 45.5 percent to $16.2 trillion.
Still, consumer confidence has risen from 37.4 at the time of Obama's inauguration in January 2009 to 70.3 last month, indicating increasing optimism. The Dow Jones Industrials Average has jump 64.8 percent and household net worth has climbed 22.4 percent.
Concern about the pace of recovery has remained a powerful force working to Romney's advantage. That has kept the battle for voter support between Romney and Obama tight into the closing days of the campaign.
The latest Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll shows Romney with 49 percent support among likely voters and Obama with 48 percent support, a result within the survey's three percentage point margin of error.
Romney also touched on foreign policy, again arguing that Obama hasn't fulfilled his promise to raise the standing of the U.S. in the world. Without giving specifics, he vowed he would pursue a more successful course.
"We'll help the Muslim world combat the spread of extremism; we will dissuade Iran from building a nuclear bomb; we will build enduring relationships throughout Latin America; we'll partner with China and other great nations to build a more stable and peaceful world."
The campaigns have concentrated on nine battleground states that account for 110 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.
Obama is scheduled to travel Saturday to a campaign rally in Nashua, N.H., where singer James Taylor is set to perform.
After his brief visit to Iowa Friday, Romney is scheduled to return to Ohio, where he started his day, for another rally. He is expected to campaign in Florida on Saturday.
A super-storm expected to develop from Hurricane Sandy is already affecting the campaign schedule along the East Coast. Romney's campaign is citing the storm for cancellation of a campaign event set for Sunday in Virginia Beach, Va.