AMES, Iowa -- Seizing on new data as fresh evidence of economic sluggishness, Republican challenger Mitt Romney said Friday that President Barack Obama inherited a bad situation when he took office and then "made the problem worse."

A Commerce Department report said growth from July through September was slightly faster than a 2 percent annual rate. Growth so far this year is slightly less than in 2011, which was weaker than 2010. Officials said the current annual rate is too slow to bring a rapid boost in job creation.

Meanwhile Friday, Obama looked ahead to the second term he's hoping to win and breaking the gridlock in Congress that marked the past two years.

Referring to the two top Republicans in Congress, the president said he was prepared to "wash John Boehner's car" or "walk Mitch McConnell's dog" if it would help complete an elusive deal to cut future deficits by trillions of dollars.

The two campaign rivals faced a common headache as the end of their race came into view: Hurricane Sandy, which could cause widespread disruptions into next week in battleground states from Virginia to New Hampshire. Romney and Vice President Joe Biden each canceled planned weekend appearances in Virginia Beach, Va.; Michelle Obama scrubbed a Tuesday appearance at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

Romney was unsparing in his criticism of the man he hopes to unseat. "Despite all that he inherited, President Obama did not repair our economy; he did not save Medicare and Social Security; he did not tame the spending and borrowing; he did not reach across the aisle to bring us together," the former Massachusetts governor said.

"Four years ago, America voted for a post-partisan president, but they have seen the most political of presidents, and a Washington in gridlock because of it," he added.

Democrats delighted in pointing out that Romney spoke outside Kinzler Construction Services, which benefitted from more than $650,000 in stimulus funding from the 2009 package Obama that signed into law -- and which the Republican nominee often criticizes.

Back in the White House after a marathon campaign swing Wednesday and Thursday, Obama said he looked forward to trying to reach a deal with congressional Republicans on a sweeping budget deal if he wins re-election. Asked by radio show host Michael Smerconish if he would make the first move, the president replied, "I've said I'll do whatever's required to get this done.

"And I think the key that the American people want right now is for us to tackle some big challenges that we face in a common-sense, balanced, sensible way," he said.

That was a reference to one of Obama's biggest differences with Romney -- his insistence that tax cuts be allowed to expire at upper incomes on Dec. 31, as opposed to Romney's insistence that they be extended. With Politico

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