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CLEVELAND — In a re-election campaign stop today, President Obama spelled out the contrast between his vision and what he said was the vision of Republican opponent Mitt Romney, predicting that investments in infrastructure and education and taxing the wealthy a little more will lead to a better future for the American middle class than harsh spending cuts and tax cuts.
“We have a stalemate in Washington about two fundamentally different views of which direction Washington should take. This election is your chance to break that stalemate,” Mr. Obama said to a very enthusiastic crowd of about 1,500 in the Cuyahoga Community College Recreation Center.
Contrary to predictions that Mr. Obama would reset the campaign, for nearly an hour he pitched the same philosophy and policy prescriptions he has been making since 2008 — emphasis on government investments in research, education at all levels, highways and other kinds of infrastructure, and “responsible” deficit reduction — paid for in part, by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, who he said have gained wealth while the middle class has stagnated.
It was Mr. Obama’s eighth trip to Cuyahoga County since taking office in 2009. Cuyahoga County has the biggest concentration of Democratic voters in Ohio, and Ohio is a critical state for him to win in his quest for 270 electoral votes to gain a second term in office.
In the audience was U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) who is running for re-election in the 9th Congressional District, which now includes western Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, against Republican Samuel Wurzelbacher of Springfield Township.
Miss Kaptur called it “a great speech” because he recounted the economic failures of the George W. Bush administration and spelled out in clear terms the route forward, she said.
The waiting crowd broke out into the chant from Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign, “Fired up — Ready to go.”
The President is airing TV campaign ads that attack Mr. Romney’s record of job creation when he was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.
He also has an ad that says Congress is blocking his jobs bill that would hire construction workers, police officers, teachers, and firefighters. The President cited the recovery of the auto industry as an example of the recovery so far.
Mr. Obama recounted the economic collapse in the final years of the last decade, which he blamed on Republican policies of paying for programs and wars on a national credit card and giving away tax cuts. Those policies, he said, combined with bad business practices, caused the economy to crash and eliminate 9 million jobs.
Since the start of his term, Mr. Obama said the economy has created 4.2 million jobs.
“Governor Romney and allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory that we tried in the last decade, that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down, eliminate most regulations, cut taxes by trillions of dollars, strip down government to ... a few basic functions, that the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed, and that will automatically benefit us all,” Mr. Obama said.
He said that approach would not reduce the deficit and would slow down the recovery from the recession.
“This is not my opinion. This is not political spin. This is precisely what they have proposed,” he said.
“If you agree with the [GOP] approach I’ve described then you should vote for Mr. Romney ... and his allies in Congress,” he said to boos from the crowd, offering a sarcastic compliment for his opponent. “They will take America down this path, and Mr. Romney’s qualified to deliver on that plan.”
The President alluded ruefully to a verbal misstep last week when he said the private sector was “doing fine,” fueling critics who say he’s interested only in government jobs.
“There will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about and recently I’ve made my own unique contribution to that process,” he said.
Republicans accuse Mr. Obama of bungling the economic recovery, because of a national employment rate of 8.2 percent and an economy that is still about 4 million jobs short of where it was before the 2008 recession began.
A spokesman for Mr. Romney labeled it “an empty speech from a desperate President who is out of new ideas and out of time to keep his promises.”
“His big government agenda has not put people back to work. Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney understands that the private sector is not “doing fine” and he will promote new pro-growth policies that will turn around our struggling economy,” said Ryan Williams.
The President was introduced by local citizen Angela Schafer from North Olmsted, a nurse and married mother of two, a living embodiment of “Julia,” the cartoon character in an Obama ad who goes through life getting help from the government.
Ms. Schafer said her education, at CCC, was subsidized by Pell Grants. The 2009 stimulus bill slashed her COBRA premiums in half at a time when she was unemployed and had a son who was sick with swine flu. And her family benefitted from the payroll tax cut and the so-called Making Work Pay tax cut in helping them afford every day expenses and begin a savings plan.
“He’s investing in my daughter, Megan,” Ms. Schafer said. “He knows the jobs of the future are in the subjects my Megan loves — science, technology, engineering, and math.”
Mr. Romney was at Seilkop Industries in Cincinnati today, and is to return to Ohio three days later as part of a bus tour of political toss-up states. Stops in Ohio are planned for Newark and Troy.
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