Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said his economic programme would create 12 million new jobs in the next four years, turning his attention back to the economy before the release of an important report on US unemployment.
The jobs report is sure to refocus the campaign on the all-important topic of the economy and away from Mr Romney's missteps during his recent trip to Britain, Israel and Poland.
Voters remain worried about the exceedingly slow recovery from the Great Recession and stubbornly high national unemployment, now at 8.2%.
Mr Romney sought to seize the moment in his first campaign stop since the troubled trip overseas, likening President Barack Obama to a "dog trying to chase its tail" on strengthening the sluggish economic recovery.
Firing back instantly, Mr Obama said his rival favoured "trickle-down fairy dust" that had failed to fix the economy in the past, and unleashed a new television ad with a scathing summation of Mr Romney's tax plans: "He pays less. You pay more."
The two men campaigned in battleground states hundreds of miles apart, the incumbent in Florida, his challenger in Colorado, both on a mission to convert undecided voters to their side.
In a razor-close race, polls show Mr Romney, with his record with a private equity firm, leading as the candidate best qualified to deal with the struggling economy.
The next major marker of economic health is released today, when the government announces July recruiting and unemployment trends.
Economists forecast that US employers added 100,000 jobs in July. That would be slightly better than the 75,000-a-month average from April through June but still below the healthier 226,000 average in the first three months of the year.
Mr Romney unveiled what aides called his plan for more jobs and more take-home pay, coupled with a self-generated report card that said Massachusetts enjoyed better economic times when he was governor than the nation has under Mr Obama.
In remarks in Golden, Colorado, he said his economic policies would lead to creation of 12 million jobs over the first four years, and help make North America energy-independent, a pledge that aides said included Canada and Mexico as well as the United States.
Mr Romney pledged expanded international trade, particularly with Latin America, and vowed to confront China over its own policies.
"I'm finally going to sit down with the Chinese and they're going to understand that if they cheat there are going to be consequences, because we're not going to let them walk all over us," the former Massachusetts governor said.
He said he would help small business owners, improve the education system and cut spending to reduce the deficit, but offered relatively few specifics.
Mr Romney has said previously he wants to extend the tax cuts due to expire on December 31 and grant a new 20% cut in tax rates in addition to stimulate growth. He has also said he will reverse some of Mr Obama's proposed defence cuts, and simultaneously reduce spending on other programmes in a way that deficits would gradually subside.
But he has so far refused to identify which existing tax breaks he would curtail to accomplish his goals, and generally avoided naming individual programmes he wants to cut or eliminate.
In his remarks, Mr Romney said Democrats "think we should just raise taxes. …The problem is when you raise taxes you lower growth".
Mr Obama's approach was "like a dog trying to chase its tail, you just don't ever get there". "So the right answer is not to raise taxes. The right answer is to cut taxes and cut spending."
Mr Obama planned to use the backdrop of the White House and surround himself with families who would benefit from the election year middle-class tax cut he is pushing congress to adopt.
He and other Democrats support extending existing tax cuts except for individuals making more than 200,000 dollars a year and couples with incomes over 250,000 dollars - and their disagreement with Mr Romney and the Republicans on this point has emerged as arguably the most fundamental of the campaign.
For the second day in a row, Mr Obama cited a study by the non-partisan Tax Policy Centre that says Mr Romney and other millionaires would receive a tax cut of approximately 250,000 dollars a year if Mr Romney gets his way.
"This analysis also found that if Governor Romney wants to keep his word" about reducing deficits, "the average middle-class family with children would be stuck with a tax increase of more than 2,000 dollars", he added.
Mr Romney's personal wealth has been estimated as high as $250m (€203.3m), but he has not so far made public any detailed disclosure of his holdings. His aides have sought to dismiss the report as a partisan attack by former aides to the president.