VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Courting voters in the battleground state of Virginia today, President Obama slammed Mitt Romney and Republicans for wanting to extend tax cuts for the wealthy, saying they are "not serious" about deficit reduction.
Kicking off a two-day campaign tour to shore up support in the state he won four years ago (the first Democrat to carry Virginia since 1964), the president reiterated his call to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning $250,000 or less and accused his rivals of holding the middle class "hostage" while they debate tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
"If we both agree that middle-class taxes shouldn't go up, let's go ahead and get this done tomorrow. Let's get this done next week. What's the holdup?" he asked supporters packed into the gymnasium at Green Run High School.
The holdup, Obama explained, is the disagreement over the top two percent. "Folks like me," he said, who "don't need a tax break."
"The top two percent, those tax cuts, that will be settled in the next election," he told the raucous crowd of 1,400. "I'm looking forward to having a debate, because if you say you want to bring down the deficit but you're not willing to let tax cuts lapse for the top two percent, it tells me you're not serious about deficit reduction."
The president went on to mock Republicans for trying to repeal his health care law instead of working to help the middle class.
"The Republicans in the House of Representatives, they voted to repeal it again," he said. "That was the 33rd time they've done that. Thirty-three votes to repeal the health care bill. All it would take is one vote to make sure that all of you don't see your taxes go up next year… You tell me what would be a better use of time."
The president is using his message on tax cuts as yet another opportunity to cast himself as the defender of the middle class and Romney as out of touch, claiming his opponent wants to implement the failed economic policies of the past.
"If you try something and it doesn't work, why would you try it again? Why would we want to go back to that?" Obama said to applause. "I've got a different idea. I don't think top-down economics works. I believe that we grow this economy from the middle out. From the bottom up. I believe the heart and soul of this country is making sure that working people can feel some security in the middle class."
The Romney campaign pushed back against Obama's economic policies today before he even took to the stage in Virginia.
"In the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama came to Virginia and touted 'the very beginnings of the end of this recession,'" a Romney spokeswoman said in a written statement. "Three years later, after weak economic growth, disappointing jobs numbers, plummeting consumer confidence, and government spending out of control, Americans don't feel that the Obama economy is working for them."