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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Obama, in Ohio, Attacks Romney Over Tax Cuts


MANSFIELD, Ohio â€" As polls in this battleground state and nationally continue to show voters split over President Obama's stewardship of the economy, Mr. Obama on Wednesday attempted to contrast his vision for the nation's future with that of his Republican rival Mitt Romney.

At his first stop here in north-central Ohio, in a small park against a backdrop of small businesses, Mr. Obama faced more than 2,000 supporters and offered an attack on Mr. Romney's proposal to cut taxes for individuals and businesses by more than $5 trillion over the next decade. The president would take the same message next to Akron, and is to go to Florida on Thursday.

Mr. Obama cited a newly released study from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a joint effort of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, two Washington-based policy research organizations. It concluded that the sort of tax code that Mr. Romney has proposed “would provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle and/or lower-income taxpayers.”

Mr. Obama said: “Ohio, we do not need more tax cuts for folks that are already doing really well. We need tax cuts for working Americans.”

Speaking loudly and emphatically, Mr. Obama singled out the study's finding that if Mr. Romney erased enough existing tax breaks to offset the revenue loss from his proposed tax cuts, so that his plan did not add to budget deficits, the changes would shift $86 billion of tax burden away from the high-income taxpayers and onto everyone else. And the tax breaks to be reduced or repealed include the deductions and credits for mortgage interest, college tuition and health insurance.

“This wasn't my staff, this wasn't something we did,” Mr. Obama said. “Independent group ran the numbers.”

The Romney campaign quickly dismissed the study as partisan, noting t hat one of its three authors had been on the staff of the president's Council of Economic Advisers. The Tax Policy Center is widely respected, however, and is used often as a resource by members of both parties in Washington.

Mr. Obama was flying, literally, into a controversy in Mansfield that Republicans, led by Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a potential running-mate pick for Mr. Romney, aggressively fanned. Before his arrival the local media noted that Air Force One was landing at an air base that is home to the 179th Air National Guard Wing, whose C-27J aircraft were being mothballed under the administration's proposed postwar reductions in Pentagon spending.

But en route to Mansfield, Mr. Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, told reporters on Air Force One that the Pentagon would work to find a new mission for the roughly 800 guardsmen at the base â€" news that Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat facing re-election in Ohio, trumpeted in a news release but that t he Romney campaign attacked as a politically motivated flip-flop.

Mr. Obama repeated his call for Republicans in Congress to agree to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, on annual income of less than $250,000 for couples and $200,000 for individuals, and to drop their insistence that the lower tax rates be extended as well for income above those thresholds. Higher taxes for the wealthiest taxpayers are central to Mr. Obama's broader deficit-reduction plan for the coming decade, along with reductions over 10 years in so-called entitlement programs like Medicare.

Mr. Obama has a six-percentage-point advantage over Mr. Romney in Ohio, according to new polls of several battleground states for Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News. But while independent voters strongly support Mr. Obama in next-door Pennsylvania, those in Ohio and in Florida â€" where the president will campaign on Thursday â€" split between the candidates a nd just over half of independents in Ohio and Florida say they disapprove of his job performance.

Even so, more voters in Ohio also said Mr. Romney's experience as a private-equity manager had been too focused on making profit for investors and not enough on creating jobs. That reflects the abundance of negative ads that the Obama campaign and a “super PAC” supporting it have run in the swing states to define Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch multimillionaire who puts personal profits over jobs for average Americans.

In time for Mr. Obama's latest visit â€" his ninth in 2012 and his 25th in his presidency, according to the count of the CBS White House reporter Mark Knoller, who keeps such records â€" his campaign is running a new ad titled “Worried” that draws parallels between Mr. Romney's agenda for increased military spending and tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations and the major policies of the Bush administration in the past decade.

†œYou watched, and worried,” a voice says in the ad, which also is running in Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and Colorado. “Two wars. Tax cuts for millionaires. Debt piled up. And now we face a choice.” The ad then segues from those Bush-era policies to Mr. Romney's military spending and tax cut proposals.

But the Romney campaign also was running a new ad, only in Ohio, that sought to turn against Mr. Obama an issue that has been a big help to the president to date â€" the government's successful rescue of the auto industry â€" and to blunt the disadvantage Mr. Romney has for having opposed that bailout.

The ad featured a man in Lyndhurst, Ohio, whose auto dealership was among those that General Motors closed as part of its downsizing. “It was like the dream that we worked for and that we worked so hard for, was gone,” the man says.

Local media in Ohio reported on Tuesday that voters were lined up for blocks to get tickets from campaign field offices for Mr. Obama's appearances. Also on hand Wednesday in Mansfield was a large Romney bus in which volunteers made phone calls to potential supporters, according to Chris Maloney, a spokesman for the Romney campaign in Ohio. And about 30 protesters supporting both Mr. Romney and the former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul heaved anti-Obama signs and chanted “Shame on you, Barack Obama.”