Posted: Jun 14, 2012 10:40 AM by CNN
President Barack Obama seeks to re-energize his economic message Thursday with a campaign speech in the electoral battleground of Ohio, while certain Republican rival Mitt Romney will offer his take on the economy at the same time in the same state.
The dueling addresses reflect what polls have consistently shown -- the economy is the top issue in the November presidential election -- and both campaigns continue their high-stakes efforts to seize the advantage on it.
Obama has been rocked by bad economic news in recent weeks, including a tepid May jobs report and Thursday's news that first-time unemployment claims rose slightly last week.
The president provided fuel to Romney's repeated claims that he is out of touch and his policies have been ineffective by telling reporters last Friday that compared to the public sector, the private sector "is doing fine."
A new Romney campaign ad Thursday replays the president uttering the phrase several times while highlighting the nation's economic woes by flashing on-screen text: "23.2 million Americans are unemployed," "40 straight months over 8% unemployment" and "middle-class struggles deepen under Obama."
The spot is the first negative ad against Obama by the Romney camp so far in the general election campaign, although super-PACs backing Romney have run attack ads against the president.
While Obama and Democrats cite continued job growth for more than two years, some Democratic strategists have called for the president to sharpen his economic message and avoid giving too much emphasis to the incremental improvement.
"The economy speaks for itself," said CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger. "You know how you feel around the dinner table, what's happening in your bank account."
Asked Wednesday about such calls, White House spokesman Jay Carney noted the challenges faced by the Obama administration when it took office amid "the worst economic cataclysm in our lifetimes."
"The bottom fell out and the American people paid a huge price for the recession and the policies that led up to the recession," Carney told reporters. "And it is the central mission of this president, this presidency, this administration to put in place the policies that will help us grow; will help us create jobs, and do it in a way that builds a foundation for the economy that is not shaky, that is not constructed out of the insubstantial stuff of housing bubbles or tech bubbles or financial industry bubbles, but is built on investments in education, in innovation, in infrastructure, in energy."
A survey released Thursday showed that more Americans blame former President George W. Bush than Obama for the continuing economic problems that began in the previous administration.
According to the Gallup poll, 68% of respondents said Bush deserves either a great deal or a moderate amount of blame, compared with 31% who said the former president deserves not much or no blame at all.
In the survey, 52% said Obama deserves blame, with 48% saying he isn't to blame for current economic conditions.
Another poll shows independent voters are dissatisfied with the economic plans of both candidates.
According to the Washington Post/ABC News survey released Wednesday, 54% of independents have an unfavorable view of Obama's plan for the economy, and 47% view Romney's economic plan unfavorably. It says 38% view Obama's plan favorably, compared with 35% who feel the same about Romney's plan.
The survey showing negative marks for each candidate's economic plan reflected strong racial divides among Americans.
White voters were split on Romney's plan, with 42% viewing it favorably and 42% viewing it unfavorably. Minority voters were far less positive, with 68% of black voters and 48% of Latino voters viewing the Republican candidate's plan unfavorably. Both groups gave much higher marks to Obama -- 81% of black voters and 59% of Latino voters had a favorable view of the Democrat incumbent's plan.
On Wednesday, Romney used an address to business chiefs to anticipate the expected message from Obama in Thursday's speech.
The president "said, as you know, just a few days ago, that the private sector is doing fine," Romney said. "But the incredulity that came screaming back from the American people has caused him, I think, to rethink that. And I think you're going to see him change course when he speaks tomorrow."
This time, Romney said, Obama "will acknowledge that it isn't going so well and he'll be asking for four more years. ... My own view is that he will speak eloquently, but the words are cheap."
Shooting back, the Obama campaign accused Romney of making a "dishonest claim" about the president's record and "failed to offer any new ideas of his own" on improving the economy.
Romney would push "budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans" and let "Wall Street write its own rules -- the same policies that crashed the economy and devastated the middle class in the first place," campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.
In his Wednesday remarks, Romney outlined his plans for the first 100 days of his administration if elected, promising to "eliminate government programs, to send a lot of government programs back to states where I limit the rate of growth at inflation, and to cut back the number of federal employees through attrition."
Also on Romney's to-do list: approving the controversial Keystone pipeline, slashing non-security discretionary government spending, reducing the number of government regulations and repealing the health care reform law passed by Democrats in 2010 and signed by Obama.
His policies reflect the GOP goal of shrinking government and lowering taxes to reduce the mounting federal deficit and national debt. Led by conservatives, Republicans argue such steps will boost economic growth to bring in more revenue -- despite the tax cuts -- and shrink the deficit.
Obama calls for ending Bush-era tax cuts for families making more than $250,000 a year as well as tax breaks for the oil industry and others to increase revenue, while also holding down spending and seeking long-term entitlement reforms.
His policies envision maintaining or increasing government spending for education, clean energy innovation and building and repairing America's roads, bridges and other infrastructure, including technology.
Both parties and presidential campaigns have been guilty of making dubious claims about the other as the campaign rhetoric has heated up.
Bill Adair, the editor of the Pulitzer Prize winning web site Politifact.org, said his recent fact-checks of the candidates have rated nearly all of their claims to be half-truths.
"The campaigns are cherry-picking statistics that don't tell a full story," Adair said.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson with the Annenberg Center for Public Policy said ad distortions from both candidates in both parties are typical of a campaign that has "specialized in taking words out of context."
Jamieson's office launched its own fact-checking site, Flackcheck.org, to police campaign ads for their distortions. The web site features a montage of television spots that are guilty of using a wide array of deceptive techniques.
"The danger is people hear the sound bite repeated in ads, see it repeated in the news, and lose track of the original context," Jamieson said. "It becomes the reality and in the process, there's a serious deception."