Obama to defend economic record, hit Romney, in high-stakes Ohio speech

President Barack Obama travels Thursday to the critical electoral battleground of Ohio to deliver his first major economic speech of the general election. He will offer a ringing defense of his handling of the economic recovery, tell voters he feels their pain, and warn them against picking Mitt Romney in November.

"It is a campaign speech," White House press secretary Jay Carney candidly told reporters on Wednesday.

The embattled incumbent's remarks at the Cuyahoga Community College Metropolitan Campus in Cleveland will center on a plea for patience with the sputtering recovery — the top issue on voters' minds, and Obama's most glaring political vulnerability. "This is the first in a series of speeches the president will give laying out the stark choice in the election," a senior campaign aide told reporters by email.

"There is no question that we are a long way from where we need to be. The hole was deep, and we are only part way out of it," Carney said.

On the eve of the speech, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found that independent swing voters are decidedly bearish on his approach.

Only 38 percent of those up-for-grabs Americans have favorable views of Obama's economic plans, with a majority (54 percent) dissaproving. The good news for the embattled president? They aren't much more impressed by Romney's economic ideas—47 percent rate his approach unfavorably, with just 35 percent in favor. (more...)