After weeks of setbacks and stumbles, President Obama today sought to streamline his economic pitch for re-election, outlining what he sees as the sharply contrasting visions at stake in November.
"More than anything else, 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," the president told voters in the battleground state of Ohio just moments after his GOP opponent spoke on the other side of the state. "At stake is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two paths for our country."
In a 54-minute speech that felt more like a lecture than a campaign rally, the president framed the election as a "chance to break that stalemate" between his vision for an economy where "everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share" and Mitt Romney's "theory that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down."
"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. Your vote will finally determine the path that we take as a nation not just tomorrow, but for years to come," he told a crowd of 1,500 at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland.
Obama painted an apocalyptic picture of his opponents economic proposals. "If they win the election, their agenda will be simple and straightforward. They have spelled it out. They promise to roll back regulations on banks and polluters, on insurance companies and oil companies. They'll roll back regulations designed to protect consumers and workers. They promise to not only keep all of the Bush tax cuts in place, but add another $5 trillion in tax cuts on top of that."
"This is not spin, this is not my opinion, these are facts," the president said. "This is what they're presenting as their plan. This is their vision. There is nothing new, just what Bill Clinton has called the same ideas they've tried before except on steroids."
"I've got a different vision for America," Obama argued. "I believe that you can't bring down the debt without a strong and growing economy. And I believe you can't have a strong and growing economy without a strong and growing middle class."
The president, however, offered no new proposals for growing the economy, repeating calls for investments in education, energy and infrastructure and a more balanced tax code.
"I don't believe that giving someone like Mr. Romney another huge tax cut is worth ending the guarantee of basic security we always provided the elderly and the sick and those who are actively looking for work," he said to cheers from the crowd.
Today's speech comes after a series of bad economic news and messaging stumbles that have caused some Democratic allies to question the president's campaign strategy.
Obama openly acknowledged some of his recent mistakes and seemed to joke about his gaffe last week that "the private sector is doing fine."
"Polls will go up, and polls will go down. There will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about. You may have heard I recently made my own unique contribution to that process," he said to laughter at the top of his remarks. "It wasn't the first time; it won't be the last."