One State, Two Visions: Obama, Romney at Odds in Ohio

One State, Two Visions: Obama, Romney at Odds in Ohio

By Alexis Simendinger - June 15, 2012

President Obama and Mitt Romney disagreed Thursday about how to help the ailing economy, crossing swords in Ohio, a state that could decide the next president. In back-to-back televised arguments, Obama took 54 minutes in Cleveland to describe why he thinks Romney's agenda is dangerous for America, and Romney needed about 15 minutes in Cincinnati to argue that the economy cannot recover under Obama's governance.

The White House had billed the president’s address as a chance to “reframe” the election choice for voters, to offer the public a detailed analysis -- without new proposals -- of why Obama and independent experts believe Romney’s ideas were tried before and hurt the country’s balance sheet.

The president has expressed alarm that Romney has attracted public support with his push for lower taxes, smaller government, less regulation and a market-governed and state-based health care system. The former Massachusetts governor is in close contention with, or ahead of, Obama in key battleground states, according to recent polls, and the president thinks the contest will be neck-and-neck. Without tangible new evidence that the country is turning the corner and producing more jobs, higher incomes and lower consumer costs, Obama’s strategy is to run on his “vision” compared with his opponent’s.

With his opponent now certain -- but still a fresh personality to most of the electorate -- the president wants to hammer home Democrats’ warnings that public amnesia or denial about Romney’s borrowed-from-the-past policies will prove costly.

A lengthy explicator even on routine days, Obama stapled together sections of economic speeches he’s delivered since last year, before he was certain Romney would be his challenger. If his campaign team planned to test the receptiveness of focus-group audiences to various passages, the 54 minutes of windy rhetoric made some sense. Chief White House speechwriter Jon Favreau carried a worn folder full of pages marked “Presidential Statement,” suggesting the text was a late-breaking creation with plenty of Obama input.

Within minutes after Obama finished speaking, his campaign dispatched more than 20 emailed statements from Democratic lawmakers, candidates and business boosters lauding the president’s policies. Republican pundits gleefully skewered it all as “nothing new.”

Obama said his opponent is selling failed Reagan and (George W.) Bush economic proposals that would slash spending and taxes. “Romney economics,” he said, would enrich the wealthy, cost the economy more jobs, rip open the safety net for the middle class, and hike deficits and the nation’s debt.

“I want to speak to everybody who's watching who may not be a supporter -- may be undecided or thinking about voting the other way,” Obama said at the Cuyahoga Community College. “If you agree with the [Republican] approach I just described, if you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney.”

The former governor, speaking at a campaign stop in Cincinnati before Obama’s remarks, told his audience: “You may have heard that President Obama is on the other side of the state, and he's going to be delivering a speech on the economy. He's doing that because he hasn't delivered a recovery for the economy. And he's going to be a person of eloquence as he describes his plans for making the economy better. But don't forget, he's been president for 3½ years. And talk is cheap. Action speaks very loud.” 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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