President Obama on Thursday told Americans they could break the political "stalemate" suffocating the U.S. economy in November's election, as he sought to reframe his campaign message.

But his Republican foe Mitt Romney, in a dueling speech in the critical swing state of Ohio, savaged the president's economic policies, argued Obama had needlessly prolonged the recession and said "talk is cheap."

Obama, battered by a rising unemployment rate and set back by his own gaffe last week when he said the U.S. private sector was doing "fine," is locked in a neck-and-neck fight with Romney as he strives for a second White House term.

"This election will take many twists and many turns, polls will go up and polls will go down," he said in a speech in Cleveland. "There will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about," Obama said. "You may have heard, I recently made my own unique contribution to that process."

Obama portrayed Romney's economic policies as a return to the kind of approach that unleashed the financial crisis four years ago, and condemned their "top down" approach which he said unfairly favored the rich.

"If you want to give the policies of the last decade a try, you should vote for Mr. Romney. You should vote for his allies in Congress," Obama said, trying to tar his foe with the unpopularity of lawmakers in Washington.

"Mr. Romney is qualified to deliver on that plan. I am giving you an honest presentation of what he is proposing," Obama said, his voice thick with sarcasm.

"I have a different vision," Obama said. "The debate in this election is not about whether we need to grow faster or whether we need to create jobs or whether we pay down our debt. The debate in this election is about how we grow faster, and how we create more jobs and how we pay down our debt."

Obama argued that Romney would eliminate regulations for businesses and reward the wealthiest Americans with $5 trillion in tax cuts, all while cutting government spending on education and other priorities.

"What's holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take," Obama said. "And this election is your chance to break that stalemate."

But Romney, giving his own speech in Ohio, in the city of Cincinnati, about 250 miles from the Obama event, said the president's policies over the past three-and-a-half years had hammered the economy.

"As you look at the president's record, it is long on words, and short on action that created jobs. And, again, talk is cheap," Romney said. "I want more good jobs for the American people and I want to help the middle class of America and I am going to do it."

Romney, speaking before the president, said Obama would roll out "all sorts of excuses" and ideas for how he would fire up the stuttering economic recovery.

"But what he says and what he does are not always the exact same thing."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012