President Barack Obama slammed Mitt Romney in a major campaign address this afternoon, framing the 2012 election as a choice between his balanced approach to growth and deficit reduction (complete with infrastructure spending and higher taxes), and Romney’s promise to return to the economic policies of the Bush administration. Democrats — especially those close to Wall Street — had been fretting that Obama’s populist rhetoric was a risk factor both politically and financially, but the President demonstrated that he believes otherwise.
“There is one place where I stand in complete agreement with my opponent: this election is about our economic future,” Obama said at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.
“What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take. And this election is your chance to break that stalemate,” Obama continued. “At stake is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two paths for our country.”
Here’s the full video of the speech:
The Republican path, Obama declared, would be a return to George W. Bush’s economic polices which “did not grow the economy, they did not grow the middle class, they did not reduce our debt.”
A recent Gallup poll reported that the public still blames Bush more than Obama for the current economic mess, even though the former president has kept his head down since leaving office and the Obama Administration rarely mentions Bush by name. So Obama laid out a narrative of how Bush’s economic policies — tax cuts for the rich, slashed budgets for education and infrastructure, no push to expand access to healthcare — weakened the economy well before the 2008 financial crisis, and how Romney’s policies would be little different.
Obama pushed deficit reduction, mainly by highlighting the extent to which the Bush policies were wasteful “If you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney,” Obama said.
The President then laid out his own agenda, saying that
I believe we need a plan for better education and training and for energy independence, rebuilding our infrastructure, for a tax code that creates jobs in America and pays down our debt in a way that’s balanced. I have that plan, they don’t. And if you agree with me, if you believe this economy grows best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules, then I ask you to stand with me for a second term as president.
Obama sounded like his old “post-partisan self” when a promise to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans — but it came at the end, and he made clear that this time around he wasn’t going to act as there was a point where they could meet in the middle. “I’m convinced that there are actually a lot of Republicans out there who may not agree with every one of my policies but who still believe in a balanced, responsible approach to economic growth and who remember the lessons of our history, and who don’t like the direction their leaders are taking them,” he said.
President Obama’s full remarks are here.