President Barack Obama spoke at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, on Thursday, June 14, 2012.
Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press
Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican presidential candidate, spoke at Epcor Foundry in Cincinnati, on Thursday, June 14, 2012..
Kirk Irwin, Associated Press - Nyt
Obama, Romney offer stark choices to voters
- Article by: AMY GARDNER
- Washington Post
- June 14, 2012 - 11:14 PM
CLEVELAND - President Obama declared Thursday that he and his opponent Mitt Romney offer radically different, irreconcilable visions of how to lead the nation back to prosperity, saying it is up to voters to "break that stalemate."
"This November is your chance to render a verdict on the debate over how to grow the economy, how to create good jobs, how to pay down our deficit," Obama said in framing his re-election bid as a stark choice between government action to lift the middle class and a return to Republican economic policies that he said had caused a deep recession. "Your vote will finally determine the path that we take as a nation -- not just tomorrow, but for years to come."
The president's 54-minute speech in Cleveland represented an effort to regain his footing after two weeks of dismal economic and political news. He also offered the most vigorous defense of his presidency to date, one that included a litany of the actions -- including investments in schools, energy and infrastructure -- that he said have strengthened the middle class and fostered economic growth.
But Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, did not cede the stage in this bellwether state. Romney, whose staff hastily moved up his speech so he could beat the president to the podium, made his remarks at a Cincinnati factory that served as a prebuttal. And at the site of the president's speech at Cuyahoga Community College, a Romney campaign bus circled the event, honking its horn, while a few dozen protesters milled nearby.
The speech underscored how much circumstances have changed for Obama since he won the presidency in 2008 on a promise of hope and change. The national mood now is one of disillusionment, both with the pace of the economic recovery and with Washington's dysfunction. Where Obama ran four years ago as an inspirational figure who could rise above partisanship, his argument on Thursday suggested that there is no area of common ground between his approach to governing and Romney's.
"This election presents a choice between two fundamentally different visions of how to create strong, sustained growth, how to pay down our long-term debt, and most of all how to generate good, middle-class jobs so people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead," Obama said.
As he has in the past, Obama blamed the policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush, for digging the hole in which the economy remains, and Republican obstructionism for the lack of progress in digging out of it. Romney, he said, would take the country back to Bush's approach, by cutting taxes for the wealthy, strangling investment in the future and lifting regulations. The result, he said, would be cutbacks in popular programs like college loans, medical research and early childhood education and repeal of the new health care law.
His proposal, he said, is to increase investments in education and training, to encourage alternatives to oil, and to put more money in research and infrastructure.
Romney was dismissive of Obama's address even before it was delivered, calling it a substitute for results.
"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," Romney said. "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 3 1/2 years, and talk is cheap. Actions speak very loud."
Romney added that Obama's policies have "made it harder for entrepreneurs to start a business, has made it less likely for businesses like this to hire more people."
The dueling speeches came at a moment of anxiety for Obama's Democratic allies, who have lost some of their confidence in the president's ability to vanquish what many of them had once regarded as a weak GOP opponent. Some have urged an overhaul of Obama's message, one less focused on Bush's record and more on the pain Americans feel.
Earlier this week, political consultant James Carville and pollster Stan Greenberg warned that Obama could face "an impossible headwind in November if we do not move to a new narrative."
Obama's strategists, however, have said that as an incumbent, the president must stand on his record, even as he argues that he offers a better route to the future. The speech did include some evidence that his team is trying to elevate and sharpen his message. The president did not repeat the attacks that his campaign has made on Romney's record. Instead, he aimed to provide a contrast in their visions.
Obama said, "I want to speak to everybody who is watching who may not be a supporter, may be undecided or thinking about voting the other way. ... If you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney. ... You should vote for his allies in Congress. You should take them for their word."
The New York Times contributed to this report.
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