Speaking to skeptical voters nationwide from the pivotal battleground of Ohio, President Barack Obama defiantly defended his record on the economy Thursday and painted Mitt Romney as the standard-bearer for those who would bring back George W. Bush's policies.
"I want to speak to everybody who is watching who may not be a supporter, may be undecided, or thinking about voting the other way," Obama said. "If you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney."
That line drew a chorus of boos from a rowdy crowd of about 1,500 people assembled to hear Obama try to reframe what some Democrats have described as his wobbly election message.
Romney, speaking to supporters at an aluminum plant in Cincinnati moments before Obama's remarks, offered his own version of the choice voters face on Nov. 6.
"If you think things are going swimmingly, if you think the president's right when he said the private sector is doing fine, well, then he's the guy to vote for," he said.
Obama opened his remarks with a direct reference to his much-mocked claim last Friday that the "private sector is doing fine" compared to cash-strapped state and local governments. Republicans including Mitt Romney have seized on that comment to suggest the president is out of touch.
"So, Ohio, over the next five months, this election will take many twists and many turns, polls will go up and polls will go down, there will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about," he said.
"You may have heard I recently made my own unique contribution to that process. It wasn't the first time. It won't be the last," the president said in the verbal equivalent of a dismissive shrug.
"Of course the economy isn't where it needs to be. Of course we have a lot more work to do. Everybody knows that," Obama said from behind a lectern emblazoned with his campaign slogan, "Forward," in front of eight American flags.
Aides had suggested the president's 53-minute speech from Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland would serve to recast the debate between him and Romney on the sour economy, the top issue on voters' minds. The remarks at times seemed like a blend of the soaring oratory that carried the Democrat to his historic victory in 2008 along with the ponderous, laundry-list politics of unsuccessful "State of the Union" addresses.Read More »from Obama: Romney wants to repeat ‘the mistakes of the past’