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Obama, Romney Detail Competing Economic Plans In Ohio Speeches

Matt Pressberg |
June 14, 2012 | 3:11 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

President Obama and Mitt Romney do battle. (Malwack/Wikimedia Commons)
President Obama and Mitt Romney do battle. (Malwack/Wikimedia Commons)
President Obama and his challenger in November's election, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, traveled to the battleground state of Ohio today to deliver competing speeches detailing their visions for the American economy, which is shaping up to be the defining issue of the race.

Romney spoke first in front of a small crowd at a factory in Cincinnati, a Republican-leaning part of the state. According to the Boston Globe, the former CEO of Bain Capital stuck to a familiar theme, stressing that his experience in the private sector means that he "know[s] how businessess work" and will be able to create "good jobs for the American people."

He also warned that Obama's policies are taking the United States "on a path to become more and more like Europe," which he defined as "bigger and bigger government taking more and more from the American people, directing our lives and telling us how to run our enterprises." However, one of the pillars of Romney's agenda, dramatically slashing government spending, has been enacted in heavily indebted countries like Greece and Ireland and has only made their economic crises worse.

Minutes after Romney wrapped up his speech, Obama took the stage in front of around 1,500 at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, a Democratic stronghold. As the New York Times reports, despite weak jobs numbers which are a source of real vulnerability for the president, Obama did not use his speech to try to frame the election in terms of any other issue but the economy.

Obama began by concuring with his opponent about this election being a referendum on the economy:

"In the coming weeks, Governor Romney and I will spend time debating our records and our experience, as we should. But though we will have many differences over the course of this campaign, there is one place where I stand in complete agreement with my opponent: This election is about our economic future."

He then described the election as a chance for voters to break a "stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take," before recounting the recent economic history of the United States and arguing that the economic policies embraced by Romney and Congressional Republicans were in many ways responsible:

"Without strong enough regulations, families were enticed and sometimes tricked into buying homes they couldn’t afford. Banks and investors were allowed to package and sell risky mortgages. Huge reckless bets were made with other people’s money on the line. And too many, from Wall Street to Washington, simply looked the other way."

Obama then defended his policy moves in dealing with the financial crisis that was ongoing when he took office, mentioning the relative success of the American recovery compared with many countries in Europe. Taking advantage of being in Ohio, a state with many jobs tied to the auto industry, Obama made sure to point out one of his signature economic accomplishments, which Romney famously opposed in a New York Times op-ed:

"And when my opponents and others were arguing that we should let Detroit go bankrupt, we made a bet on American workers and the ingenuity of American companies and today our auto industry is back on top of the world."

The president again laid out the general theory of economics that Romney has expressed support for, and framed the election as a choice for the American people, with the other option being to go back to the policies of the George W. Bush administration:

"Now, Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory we tried during the last decade, the theory that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down.

So they maintain that if we eliminate most regulations, we cut taxes by trillions of dollars, if we strip down government to national security and few other basic functions, then the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed and that will automatically benefit us all.

That’s what they believe. This -- this is their economic plan. It has been placed before Congress. Governor Romney has given speeches about it, and it’s on his website."

Obama next presented his "vision for America" as being based on the fundamentals of "education, energy, innovation, infrastructure, and a tax code focused on American job creation and balanced deficit reduction," with policy proposals for each category. He also pre-empted some of Romney's typical attacks:

"From now until then, both sides will spend tons of money on TV commercials. The other side will spend over a billion dollars on ads that tell you the economy is bad, that it’s all my fault... that I can’t fix it because I think government is always the answer or because I didn’t make a lot of money in the private sector and don’t understand it or because I’m in over my head or because I think everything and everybody is doing just fine."

Admitting that paying down the debt will requre "tough choices and shared sacrifice," Obama closed on an optimistic note, saying "what’s lacking is not the capacity to meet our challenges, what is lacking is our politics," and, revisiting a 2008 campaign refrain, calling on the American people to "provide a mandate for the change we need right now."

The voters in hotly contested Ohio are likely to help provide that mandate to the winning candidate in November, and can expect to receive more surrogates and a constant barrage of television advertisements from both sides from now until the election.

See Neon Tommy's preview of the speeches here.

Reach Executive Producer Matt Pressberg here.


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