CLEVELAND -- President Barack Obama on Thursday spelled out the contrast between his economic vision and what he said was the view of Republican opponent Mitt Romney, predicting that investments in infrastructure and education and taxing the wealthy a little more will lead to a better future for the American middle class than harsh spending cuts and tax cuts.
"We have a stalemate in Washington about two fundamentally different views of which direction Washington should take. This election is your chance to break that stalemate," Mr. Obama said to a very enthusiastic crowd of about 1,500 in the Cuyahoga Community College Recreation Center.
Contrary to predictions that Mr. Obama would reset the campaign, for nearly an hour he pitched the same philosophy and policy prescriptions he has been making since 2008 -- emphasis on government investments in research, education at all levels, highways and other kinds of infrastructure, and "responsible" deficit reduction. The plan would be paid for in part, by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, who he said have gained wealth while the middle class has stagnated.
In Cincinnati, at the other end of this battleground state, Mr. Romney offered his economic rebuttal and also targeted his Democratic opponent's foreign policy.
It was Mr. Obama's eighth trip to Cuyahoga County since taking office in 2009. The county has the biggest concentration of Democratic voters in Ohio, and Ohio is a critical state for him to win in his quest for 270 electoral votes to gain a second term in office.
The waiting crowd broke out into the chant from Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign: "Fired up -- Ready to go."
The president is airing TV campaign ads that attack Mr. Romney's record of job creation when he was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.
Mr. Obama also has an ad that says Congress is blocking his jobs bill that would hire construction workers, police officers, teachers and firefighters. He cited the auto industry as an example of the recovery so far.
At his campaign stop Thursday, Mr. Obama recounted the economic collapse in the final years of the last decade, which he blamed on Republican policies of paying for programs and wars on a national credit card and giving away tax cuts. Those policies, he said, combined with bad business practices, caused the economy to crash and eliminate 9 million jobs.
Since the start of his term, Mr. Obama said, the economy has created 4.2 million jobs.
"Gov. Romney and allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory that we tried in the last decade, that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down, eliminate most regulations, cut taxes by trillions of dollars, strip down government to ... a few basic functions, that the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed, and that will automatically benefit us all," Mr. Obama said.
He said that approach would not reduce the deficit and would slow down the recovery from the recession.
"This is not my opinion. This is not political spin. This is precisely what they have proposed," he said.
The president alluded ruefully to a verbal misstep last week when he said the private sector was "doing fine," fueling critics who say he's interested only in government jobs.
"There will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about, and recently I've made my own unique contribution to that process," he said.
Republicans accuse Mr. Obama of bungling the economic recovery, because of a national employment rate of 8.2 percent and an economy that is still about 4 million jobs short of where it was before the 2008 recession began.
A spokesman for Mr. Romney labeled it "an empty speech from a desperate president who is out of new ideas and out of time to keep his promises."
Mr. Romney was at Seilkop Industries in Cincinnati and told supporters Thursday that if he makes it to the White House, he'll make it easier for fossil-fuel producers to create jobs, abolish the 2010 health care act, cut the deficit and sign trade agreements.
Mr. Romney accused Mr. Obama of policies that are bad for business.
The Republican also talked about his foreign policy philosophy, which includes more trade agreements and a tougher stance with China.
"It is good for us to be able to trade with other nations. It creates jobs here," Mr. Romney said.
China and European Union nations the past 31/2 years have negotiated 44 trade agreements with other countries while Mr. Obama has negotiated zero, he said.
Mr. Romney's remarks on China came on the heels of a survey by the Pew Research Center in Washington that found international opinion has China's economy on top of America's. The survey, which included more than 26,000 phone interviews in 21 different countries, found that 42 percent of respondents cite China as having the leading economy, compared with 36 percent who chose the United States.
Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Tom Troy is a reporter for The Blade. Ignazio Messina of The Blade reported from Cincinnati. First Published June 15, 2012 4:00 AM