(AP) Scorching talk: Romney, Obama battle over economy
By DAVID ESPO and NANCY BENAC
Their battle joined, challenger Mitt Romney savaged President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy on Wednesday while the commander in chief commiserated up close with victims of the recession and warned that Republicans would only make matters worse.
At the same time, Obama sketched his case for re-election in swing-state Ohio, where he met with unemployed workers who have enrolled in job training programs. Then he spoke at the Lorain County Community College.
Campaign symbolism counted for much on a day that seems destined to be replicated often in the six months until Election Day.
The Republican challenger delivered his scathing denunciation of the president’s policies with the Bank of America Stadium over his shoulder. Aides dubbed his remarks a pre-buttal to the president’s own, and early-arriving partisans heard a recorded medley of rock music that included “It’s Still the Same.”
Each man taunted the other at times.
Romney jabbed that unlike four years ago, when Obama walked through stage-set columns at his convention, things would be different this summer.
It was only within the past two weeks that Romney shed his competition for the Republican presidential nomination, and he is still in the process of trying to unite his party after a three-month primary struggle in which he had trouble appealing to hardcore conservatives.
But already, elements of the fall campaign are falling into place.
Obama’s campaign was airing Spanish language radio ads in Orlando, Fla., Las Vegas and Denver _ all in states that the president won four years ago and that figure to be fiercely contested in the fall.
From Ohio, Obama hopscotched to Michigan for two fundraisers, the first a reception at Dearborn’s Henry Ford Museum, where Romney in 2007 launched his unsuccessful bid for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.
Speaking in a museum named for the founder of Ford Motor Co., Obama got some of his biggest cheers when he highlighted his administration’s efforts to rescue the American auto industry. Later, at a private dinner fundraiser in Bingham Farms, he said that the industry’s recovery didn’t just help Michigan, it “helped to give America a vision of what we could be.”
For his part, Romney arranged an appearance for Thursday at a factory in Lorain, Ohio, shadowing Obama’s Wednesday trip to the area. Obama toured the factory as part of his 2008 campaign _ and it was closed later.
Polls consistently show the economy is the top issue for the nation’s voters, who will decide whether to accept Romney’s indictment or Obama’s reassurances. Given recent trends, each man has a case to make.
In Ohio, joblessness was 9.1 percent in February 2009, shortly after Obama took office. It stood at 7.6 last month.
In North Carolina, joblessness was 9.5 percent then, and stands at 9.9 now.
In Michigan, where Obama was appearing late Wednesday, it was 12.5 percent in 2009 and is 8.8 percent now.
In all three states, unemployment rose in the months immediately after Obama took office as the recession deepened and financial markets trembled.
Without mentioning Romney by name, he said, “Instead of moderating their views even slightly, you now have Republicans in Washington, the ones running for president, proposing budgets that shower the wealthiest Americans with even more tax cuts, folks like me who don’t need them, weren’t looking for them.”
But Romney was relentless as he ripped into the president.
Reading from Obama’s campaign pledges from the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver, he said the president has “failed by the measurements he set. You won’t hear that at this convention, but you’re going to hear it at ours.”
He added: “We’re a trusting people. We’re a hopeful people. But we are not dumb, and we are not going to fall for the same lines from the same person just because it’s a different place.”
Nancy Benac reported from Elyria, Ohio. Associated Press writer Stacy Anderson contributed from Washington.