CLEVELAND (AP) — President Barack Obama on Thursday tore into the economic plans of Mitt Romney, saying his likely Republican opponent’s ideas are identical to those of former President George W. Bush.
Speaking at the opposite end of the battleground state of Ohio shortly before Obama, Romney said the president would be giving a fine speech but “talk is cheap.”
Obama was at a community college in the industrial city of Cleveland. Romney was in Cincinnati in the south.
Densely populated Ohio does not predictably vote Republican or Democratic in presidential elections and will be key to the outcome of the November vote.
After detailing what Obama said were the economic policy failures of his predecessor, Obama told his cheering audience: “If you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney.”
Romney started his speech 15 minutes earlier than originally planned, which meant he finished speaking before Obama took the podium in Cleveland, sounding as if he were delivering a rebuttal in advance.
“Don’t forget, he’s been president for three and a half years. And talk is cheap. Actions speak very loud,” Romney said. “If you want to see the results of his economic policy, look around Ohio, look around the country.”
“What he says and what he does are not always the exact same thing,” the former Massachusetts governor said.
Romney addressed a crowd of about 100 from a manufacturing plant of Selikop Industries, the type of small-business facility that’s become a standard venue for the Republican’s campaign stops. Cincinnati is a Republican stronghold in the state near the Kentucky border.
Romney’s campaign had billed the appearance as a dueling event to the president’s major economic speech.
But what Romney delivered was his standard, 20-minute campaign speech, castigating the president for the economic stimulus, the health care reform law and for not approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Romney also criticized the president’s policies toward China and said that, if elected, he would label the country as a currency manipulator.
Obama’s team closely monitored Romney’s event in Ohio. “Threatening to label China a currency manipulator is reckless and unnecessary,” Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement after Romney’s speech. She called Romney’s positions on China a “campaign-year conversion.”
The campaign appearances mark the first time Obama and Romney have taken their message to the same state on the same day. Ohio is key to the election hopes of both candidates. With less than five months remaining until the Nov. 6 election, they are virtually tied in the polls.
New reports on the economy Thursday brought little optimism, with weekly applications for unemployment aid inching up and a broad measure of trade, the U.S. current account trade deficit, widening in the first three months of the year for the largest imbalance since late 2008.
Under the U.S. election system, presidents are chosen in state-by-state contests. No Republican has won the presidency without carrying heavily populated Ohio, which, unlike most other states, is neither predictably Republican nor Democratic. Obama won Ohio by 5 percentage points in 2008, but the Republicans stormed back two years later with sweeping victories in the state gubernatorial and congressional races.
Obama’s visit, his 22nd to Ohio as president, comes as once-confident Democrats are increasingly worried he could lose the November election. It follows a difficult two weeks for the president, including a dismal report on the jobless rate rising to 8.2 percent, a Democratic defeat in a rare governor recall election in Wisconsin and an impressive fundraising month for Romney and Republicans, who surged ahead of Obama and the Democrats for the first time.
In addition, the Federal Reserve this week released data showing that the median family net worth shrank to levels not seen since 1992 between 2007 and 2010.
The Obama campaign may take heart, however, from a Gallup poll released Thursday saying 68 percent of Americans surveyed still said former President Bush was to blame for the economic problems engulfing the United States.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.