Lehigh Acres, Florida (CNN) - Mitt Romney hit the reset button. In a day that could mark a turning point for his campaign, the GOP contender released his tax returns and returned to an investment strategy that has paid dividends in the past: spend more time attacking the President.
To hammer the point home, the former Massachusetts governor chose two compelling backdrops to deliver what his campaign described as a "pre-buttal" to the President's State of the Union address.
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Romney started his day at an empty warehouse where a drywall factory once prospered on the outskirts of Tampa.
"It breaks my heart to visit plants like this one," Romney told a small crowd gathered inside the shuttered plant.
Later in the day, he stood outside a foreclosed home in Southwest Florida, one of the nation's hardest-hit regions in the housing crisis.
"The right course for America is to have a President who understands our lending institutions and be creative and find ways to keep people who make their payments in their homes," Romney said outside the house.
Before Romney can rebuild the real estate market, he must prop up an underperforming campaign. Bogged down for weeks in a costly ground war with Newt Gingrich, Romney's advisors now regularly concede they may not win every state.
In a sign the campaign understands Gingrich could take the winner-take-all Florida primary, Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters inside the vacant warehouse the state is not what it considered a "must win" contest.
"No state is a must win," Fehnstrom said. "The nomination process is a long process," he added.
After releasing the former Governor's tax returns for 2010 and an estimated return for 2011, the Romney campaign indicated it has no plans to release additional tax records in the future.
"We think it satisfies the legitimate public interest," Ferhnstrom said of the release.
"Passing that kidney stone," as Republican strategist Mike Murphy put it, enables Romney to return to the economy, the issue that arguably best positions his candidacy against President Obama.
Standing outside that foreclosed home at Romney's event in Lehigh Acres, a nearby resident said he appreciated the focus on Florida's battered housing market.
"I'm really impressed somebody took time to come and do it," neighbor Robert Inch said of Romney's decision to visit the vacant home.
Inch has seen squatters take over several foreclosed homes in the community.
"They're coming right in and they just do what they want to do. Anything they want to do in them. It can be pretty bad, you know," Inch added.
Democrats are all too eager for the battle with Romney on both housing and manufacturing.
Critics of the former Massachusetts governor note he once argued the housing market should be allowed to bottom out.
In recent weeks, Gingrich joined Romney's Democratic adversaries in highlighting the factories that were closed during his days at the private investment firm Bain Capital.
Romney used that foreclosed property as a prop to unleash a slew of new attacks on Gingrich's advisory work on behalf of the mortgage giant, Freddie Mac. The GOP hopeful mocked Gingrich's now infamous description of his job as a "historian" for the lender.
"Let me tell you how that works. He gets paid one-point-six million dollars. He says he was an historian. I am waiting to see the history he wrote for Freddie Mac," Romney said.
Romney also offered a new twist on his criticism that Gingrich was actually a lobbyist all those years after he left Congress, a charge the former Speaker denies.
"We can't have influence peddlers leading our party," Romney added.
After the speech, other nearby residents complained the attacks left little time for specifics on how Romney would turnaround the housing market.
"What's the plan? Other than Obama, what's the plan," asked Fort Myers resident Rafael Barros.
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Didn't the article seem to suggest that the empty factory where Romney was speaking was closed by Bain Capital?
Fort Meyers resident asks "what's the plan?". Answer: there isn't one. Btw, Romney's campaign guys saying that "Florida doesn't matter" is kinda funny: they're working for a guy who's 1 for 3. At some point, Romney needs to win a primary outside of the Northeast. Florida matters, all right.
Romney thought he had the nomination. As I said months ago he put the cart before the horse. This is what happens when one thinks they are entitled to whatever their heart desires. No matter how much money Romney has he will not be able to buy the election. I said he would not win SC, and he will not win Fl. Romney does not relate to people the way President Obama does.
desperation i call that
Wow, he must be really heartbroken over all those factories he closed while at Bain. Such a sensitive guy.
Romneys "prebuttal" had very little if any basis in fact. I listened and wondered who the heck he was talking about. This man is clearly living on another planet.
When you buyout small businesses outsource them, make you fortune over other peoples misfortune and invest your money off shore......... what kind of an American is he ?
Romney had a 60% disapproval rating 3 yrs into his governorship of Mass when the people voted him out. He gave his kids $100 million inheritance. He represents Wall St. .
whatz the plan other than obama- that should tell you obama bashing aaint gonna count much if you dont have a plan or your plan is to let the forclosure continue, so your rich buddies can make more money.
to be honest l was scared last year obam wasnt gonna be nominated, but after seeing, obama reshaping the arguement from jobs to income inequality- u can be sure he is getting re-elected after watching romey crack so easily, wont even wanna mention whatz gona happen to newt...lol
“Mitt Romney hit the reset button”. No he hit the off button
Tax return and SOTU speech voters will agree with Obama Romney hit the wrong button wrong button
he is a corporate raider getting rich off the hard work of others
What a hepocrite. You used Bain to Barnished factories and you want my vote... you know what? I will vote for you from Cayman.
Just increased your tax you vulture capitalist jerk.
Romney should run for President of the Cayman Islands
WAKE UP GOP VOTERS- NEWT IS A REAL LOSER. He is an ANGRY OLD MAN who lies and cheats. If he is the nominee I will NOT VOTE for him . He is worse than OBAMA. Vote Mitt..