COLUMBUS, Ohio – Plunging into his campaign for a new term, President Barack Obama tore into Mitt Romney on Saturday as a willing and eager “rubber stamp” for conservative Republicans in Congress and an agenda to cut taxes for the rich, reduce spending on education and Medicare and enhance power that big banks and insurers hold over consumers.
Romney and his “friends in Congress think the same bad ideas will lead to a different result or they’re just hoping you won’t remember what happened the last time you tried it their way,” the president told an audience estimated at more than 10,000 partisans at what aides insisted was his first full-fledged political rally of the election year.
Six months before Election Day, the polls point to a close race between Obama and Romney, with the economy the overriding issue as the nation struggles to recover from the worst recession since the 1930s. Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 8.1 percent nationally, although it has receded slowly and unevenly since peaking several months into the president’s term. The most recent dip was due to discouraged jobless giving up their search for work.
The president’s campaign chose Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth University for the back-to-back rallies. Obama won both states in his successful race in 2008, although both have elected Republican governors since and are expected to be hotly contested in the fall.
He was introduced in Columbus and again in Richmond by first lady Michelle Obama, and walked in to the cheers of thousands, many of them waving campaign-provided placards that read “Forward.”