RICHMOND, Va. - At his second rally on a debut 2012 campaign tour, President Obama declared that the central question that voters must consider come November is not whether they are better off than before he took office but "how we'll be doing tomorrow."
"Over and over again, they will tell you that America is down and out, and they'll tell you who to blame, and ask if you're better off than you were before the worst crisis in our lifetimes," Obama said of Republicans and his opponent Mitt Romney, who had already begun aggressively raising the question after his first stop of the day in Columbus, Ohio.
"But you know, the real question - the question that will actually make a difference in your lives and the lives of your children - is not just how we're doing today, but how we'll be doing tomorrow," he said.
Obama spoke inside the Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University to a near capacity crowd of 8,000 supporters, many holding bright blue placards with the campaign's new slogan "Forward" emblazoned on the front.
"When we look back four years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, won't we be better off if we have the courage to keep moving forward?" he said. "That's the question in this election. That's the question in this election. And the outcome is entirely up to you."
Obama also offered a veiled rebuttal to Republican criticism that his visits to Ohio and Virginia amount to a "hype and blame tour" - a label meant to mock his 2008 campaign slogan of "hope and change."
"If people ask you what this campaign is about, you tell them it's still about hope. You tell them it's still about change," Obama said. "You tell them it's still about ordinary people who believe that in the face of great odds, we can make a difference in the life of this country."
The Republican National Committee sharply criticized Obama's framing of the general election race as moving the "goal posts" he set four years ago.
"Four years ago President Obama set the goal posts with the question of 'will this country be better off four years from now?' Four years later, a crowd of his supporters gave him the answer so many Americans agree with - a resounding no," said RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
"Even though Obama would like us to forget he's been president the past three years, Americans aren't satisfied with the Obama policies," he said.
The committee also began circulating a web video, titled "Are We Satisfied? No!" tweaking the president for his comments. The video can be viewed here.