With an eye on middle-class voters, Mitt Romney waded into an obscure social issue today, accusing President Barack Obama of gutting the welfare system’s work requirements at the expense of taxpayers.

Speaking at a manufacturing plant in the Chicago suburbs, the Republican presidential candidate sought to cast Obama as a big-government supporter eager to give benefits to the poor while failing to help economically struggling working families.

“We will end a culture of dependency and restore a culture of good, hard work,” Romney told several hundred voters at Acme Industries in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

By zeroing in on welfare, a topic rarely mentioned by the campaign, Romney’s campaign is seeking to appeal to white, middle-class voters anxious about the country’s economy, an aide said. Winning that group could be pivotal for both campaigns in such swing states as Ohio and Virginia.

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