Obama is spending two days in Colorado, reaching out to women voters whose support is essential to his re-election prospects in November. He was introduced by Sandra Fluke, the college student whose congressional testimony became a flashpoint earlier this year for arguments over contraception, abortion and women's health care.
Romney was focused on the six electoral votes Iowa offers in a state-level race that both parties think could be close. He told Iowans that Americans must show investors worldwide that they are serious about reining in spending and debt.
"Entrepreneurs and business people around the world and here at home think that at some point America is going to become like Greece or like Spain or Italy, or like California just kidding about that one, in some ways," Romney said, laughing along with audience members in Iowa.
The remark ruffled egos in a liberal state that is wrestling with the prospect of tax increases and painful budget cuts. But Romney may have little to lose in California. Polls show Obama with a comfortably ahead there.
A spokesman for California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, disputed Romney's assessment. Gil Duran said the state's credit outlook has improved under Brown and that borrowing costs, a major issue facing Italy and other financially struggling European nations, have dropped by hundreds of millions of dollars.
"This is just a paper-thin Republican talking point that doesn't really stand up to scrutiny" Duran said. He said Romney "should get some better speechwriters who actually know what they're talking about."
Republicans: Obama is left of Clinton
Romney and fellow Republicans held up an unlikely role model Democrat Bill Clinton as they denounced Barack Obama's welfare policy and portray him as too far left. Obama is "the anti-Clinton," declared former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, bolstering a line of attack taken up by Romney in speeches and a TV ad as part of a hard sell to working-class voters. In Iowa, Romney repeated his charge that Obama is stripping work requirements from welfare and instituting changes to "make America more of a nation of government dependency."