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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Obama Promotes His Education Credentials, Putting Down Romney\'s


LAS VEGAS â€" It's back-to-school time, and President Obama has been all but handing out three-ring binders and pencil sharpeners this week, as he promotes his education credentials and slams those of his challenger, Mitt Romney.

Speaking to a raucous rally at a high school here, Mr. Obama accused his Republican opponent of dismissing concerns about crowded classrooms. Mr. Romney, the president said, would impose deep cuts on education funding, as part of the favor-the-rich Republican budget drafted by his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan.

“I've got a question for Governor Romney: How many teachers' jobs are worth another tax cut for millionaires and billionaires?” he said. “That's not who we are. That's not how we built the greatest economy and the strongest middle class in the world.”

Earlier, the president held a round table with three teachers at Canyon Springs High School, where one, Lori Eli zabeth Henrickson, told him that she worried that teeming classes deprived students of the attention they need to learn. Clark County, where Las Vegas is, has the largest average class sizes in the nation, Mr. Obama said.

“Governor Romney says we've got enough teachers; we don't need any more,” he said. “The way he talks about them, it seems as if he thinks they are a bunch of nameless government bureaucrats that we need to cut back on.”

The teacher-heavy crowd of 2,720, packed into a gymnasium draped in basketball banners, was one of the most enthusiastic of Mr. Obama's campaign so far. But he was also interrupted by a protester, whose angry questions were drowned out by chants of “four more years,” as security guards bundled him out of the room.

“That young man probably needed a good teacher,” Mr. Obama said.

On the second day of Mr. Obama's education swing, he shifted focus from higher to secondary educ ation, but kept up the combative tone. The president promoted his administration's granting of waivers to states from the testing requirements of the Bush-era education law, No Child Left Behind. He said he had tried to allocate federal money to rehire laid-off teachers, but had been stymied by House Republicans, including Mr. Ryan.

When the audience erupted in catcalls, he said, “Don't boo. Vote.”

To reinforce the president's education message in other states, the campaign released a new 30-second commercial called “Children,” which features an interview with parents in which they talk about the importance of smaller classes, while a narrator condemns Mr. Romney. It will be broadcast in Virginia and Ohio on Thursday.

The growing intensity of the campaign is evident in Mr. Obama's schedule, which will put him on the road next week, in the battleground states of Iowa, Colorado and Virginia, during the first two days of the Republican National Convent ion.

In elections past, candidates laid low during the conventions of their rivals. But such niceties have largely vanished in the last couple of cycles. Next week, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will campaign in Tampa, Fla., even as the Republicans gather there. Mr. Obama is not scheduled to campaign on the day Mr. Romney accepts the nomination.

The president will maintain his back-to-school theme. His destinations - Ames, Iowa; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Charlottesville, Va. - are home to Iowa State University, Colorado State University and the University of Virginia.

It was Mr. Obama's 6th visit to Nevada this year, and the 11th since he took office, symbolizing how fiercely he is fighting to hang on to its 6 electoral votes. He won Nevada over Senator John McCain by 12 points in 2008.

By rights, say some analysts, Mr. Obama should be in trouble here: the state has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and is a national leader in f oreclosures. Few places have been harder hit by the housing crisis, the lingering nature of which was illustrated by a billboard on the route of Mr. Obama's motorcade in Reno on Tuesday.

“Mortgage Forgiveness Ends in 2012,” said the advertisement, promoting RenoShortSales.com, a company that specializes in liquidating houses with delinquent mortgages. It was referring to the expiration of a government program that allows homeowners to avoid paying taxes on loans forgiven by lenders, when they sell their homes.

On two previous visits to Nevada, Mr. Obama highlighted his response to the crisis, meeting with struggling homeowners and announcing a program to help people with good credit to refinance mortgages at low interest rates.

On this visit, though, Mr. Obama conspicuously failed to mention housing, aside from an oblique reference to Nevada's having “been through tougher times than most states.” The Obama campaign, it was clear, was intent to stick to its message of education.