US President Barack Obama launched a new effort to woo Hispanics and took a swipe at Republican Mitt Romney’s “silver spoon” background on Wednesday as the two presidential rivals laid out sharply different economic visions to win over US voters.
Obama, a Democrat, and Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, outlined the weaknesses they saw in each other’s economic plans in dueling speeches in Ohio and North Carolina.
“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” Obama said at a community college outside Cleveland, in a not-so-subtle dig at Romney’s fortune, which is estimated at up to US$250 million.
Obama did not mention Romney by name, and his comment came in the context of promoting government support for education and social programs.
“In this country, prosperity does not trickle down, prosperity grows from the bottom up — and it grows from a strong middle class,” he said.
Obama has painted himself as the champion of the middle class in the campaign for the Nov. 6 election — contrasting himself with Romney and Republicans for opposing tax hikes for the rich and favoring budget cuts that would hurt the elderly and the poor.
Romney hammered Obama for presiding over an economy with high unemployment.
With the Charlotte, North Carolina, football stadium as a backdrop, Romney read lines from Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention, in which he listed grievances against then-president George W. Bush, a Republican.
“More Americans are out of work, working harder for less, losing homes and owning cars they can no longer afford to drive, a result of ‘broken policies in Washington’ and failed policies at the White House,” Romney said, quoting Obama’s 2008 speech.
“Those things he said about the prior administration are absolutely accurate about his administration,” Romney said. “And that’s why, even if you like Barack Obama, we can’t afford Barack Obama.”
Obama will deliver his nomination acceptance speech in Charlotte in four months, near where Romney spoke on Wednesday.
Romney reminded his audience of Republican supporters that Obama gave his Denver address on a stage with Greek columns.
“One thing I’m convinced you’re not going to see — you’re not going to see President Obama standing alongside Greek columns,” said Romney. “He’s doesn’t want to remind anyone of Greece because he’s put us on a road to become more like Greece.”
Greece is in the middle of a debt crisis that has shaken the eurozone and threatened the world economy.
Obama described the economic theories of Romney’s party as a failure.
He painted the Bush-era reliance on trickle-down economics — in which reducing taxes on the wealthy is supposed to lead to more hiring, which ultimately benefits middle and lower-income people — as a formula that led to the near collapse of the US financial system.
“We spent the last three-and-a-half years cleaning up after that mess. So their theory did not work out so well,” Obama said.
“Instead of moderating their views even slightly, you now have Republicans in Washington and the ones running for president proposing budgets that shower the wealthiest Americans with even more tax cuts,” he said.
Aside from exploiting their economic differences, Obama is hoping to capitalize on polls showing strong support from women and Hispanics, two constituency groups that could decide the election.