CLAYTON • On the day Mitt Romney's campaign disclosed that it raised more campaign cash last month than the sitting president, the presumptive Republican nominee stood in a posh Clayton hotel ballroom and raised more.
"St. Louis has really done a number for us tonight," Romney told a private reception of about 300, who paid $2,500 to $50,000 to meet the former Massachusetts governor.
"A number of you have been helping me for years. I let you down last time, but we're not going to afford that this time."
Romney hammered home his message of economic freedom and blasted President Barack Obama for what he called intrusive government.
"I think for the first time in American history, more people think the future is going to be darker than the past," Romney said, promising he would restore American pride.
Attendees included well-heeled St. Louis names such as former ambassadors Sam Fox and Bert Walker, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car CEO Andy Taylor. Romney also attended a private dinner in the St. Louis area after the event.
Romney charged that Obama is leading the country "over a cliff," saying the nation is headed toward higher unemployment and low wage growth under the president's watch.
In May, Romney's campaign pulled in more than $76.8 million — nearly $17 million more than Obama. It was nearly double what Romney had raised in the previous month. Obama's campaign and its joint fundraising operation with the Democratic National Committee raised $60 million.
"We got beat," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote bluntly in an email to supporters, urging contributors to give more.
Obama, forced on the defensive by lackluster employment numbers, launched a new television ad Thursday in nine key election-year states targeting Congress and blaming lawmakers for not acting on his jobs proposals.
The approach represents an expanded ad focus for Obama. But the ad won't run in Missouri. Obama narrowly lost the state to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., when he captured the White House four years ago, and the Obama campaign has given no indication that it is keying on Missouri in November.
The fundraising numbers and Obama's latest ad signal a new stage in the campaign as a resurgent Romney capitalizes on his emergence as the GOP's standard-bearer — and as Obama is forced to confront the political implications of a weak economic recovery.
Earlier in the day, Romney stood before a "putting jobs first" banner at a north St. Louis County warehouse and drove home his message that he will fix a broken economy and bring optimism back to the White House.
"As your president, starting on day one, I will do everything in my power to end these days of drift and disappointment," he said.
He added: "I will not be that president of doubt and desperation. I will lead us to a better place."
The Obama campaign quickly countered, releasing a statement saying: "In yet another in a long line of 'major' economic speeches, Mitt Romney offered no new ideas and no new policies that would actually grow the economy and strengthen the middle class. Mitt Romney has promised to use his experience to turn around the economy, but all he has offered to date are negative and dishonest speeches tearing down President Obama."
Romney spoke to a crowd of several hundred packed into the Production Products warehouse on Dunn Road in north St. Louis County, and championed the necessity of small business.
"You have not failed these last few years, the government failed you," Romney said, during a speech that lasted about 15 minutes.
Production Products is a defense contractor and Hispanic-owned business that produces an array of products from protective apparel to finely tuned machine products. The company was founded in 1978 by Barry Corona and operates four manufacturing plants in Missouri. Corona introduced Romney at Thursday's event.
The crowd came from all over the region.
Mike Welch of Camdenton, Mo., said he drove three hours to the event. He stood in the crowd and held up a handmade sign that read: "Ann Romney for First Lady!"
Romney saw the sign in the crowd and pointed it out after he took the stage.
"I loved it; it was so worth the drive," Welch said afterward.
Romney planned to spend the night in St. Louis. He is headed to Iowa and Utah today.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.