By Sam Youngman
GOLDEN, Colo. (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney plunged back into the U.S. campaign on Thursday after a rocky trip abroad, promising to create 12 million jobs and fending off criticism over taxes.
Coming after perhaps the worst week of his candidacy on a foreign trip highlighted by gaffes, Romney targeted the economic plight of middle-class American voters.
He unveiled a "Presidential Accountability Scorecard," which highlighted President Barack Obama's failure to solve high unemployment and cut the budget deficit.
Speaking in Golden, Colorado, Romney noted unfulfilled promises that Obama made in 2008 when he accepted the Democratic nomination for the presidency in Denver.
"All the measures he laid out are all measures that have gone the wrong direction," Romney said. On Friday, government figures will likely show the U.S. unemployment rate remains above 8 percent. Romney said he would create 12 million jobs in his first four years as president.
The two men are running close in opinion polls for the November 6 election. There are no signs yet that Romney's ill-fated foreign tour, during which he upset Britain and the Palestinians, have moved the dial much in the U.S. race.
'RELEASE THOSE RETURNS'
In a reminder of an uncomfortable issue for Romney, a plane hired by the liberal group MoveOn flew overhead before he spoke with a banner that read: "Welcome back, Mitt. Now release those returns."
Romney has refused to release more than two years' worth of information about his personal taxes, prompting Democrats to accuse the former private equity executive of having something to hide and possibly gaming the system.
"Mitt Romney made $20 million in 2010 but paid only 14 percent in taxes, probably less than you," said an Obama campaign ad released on Thursday.
Romney's campaign lashed out at a report this week from the centrist Tax Policy Center that calculated his proposal to slash income taxes by 20 percent across the board would boost income for the wealthiest taxpayers while reducing it for the middle class.
"That report you referenced is a joke," senior Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom told reporters on a conference call. He questioned the authorship and methodology of the report, even though the Romney campaign has cited numbers from the Tax Policy Center in the past.
In Orlando, Obama told a campaign rally that Republicans' efforts to keep President George W. Bush's tax cuts for all Americans, including the richest, would only lead to a wider deficit.
"They have tried to sell us this trickle-down, tax-cut, fairy dust before. And guess what, it didn't work then. It will not work now," Obama said. "We do not need more tax cuts for folks who have done very, very well. We need more tax cuts for working Americans," he said.
(Editing by Stacey Joyce)