President Barack Obama said Saturday the United States had suffered too much pain to turn the economy over to Republican Mitt Romney, as he fired up his first official reelection rally.
“We are not turning back the clock, we are moving forward,” Obama said, seeking to revive the political magic that swept him to power in 2008, and to confound new signs that the recovery may be running out of steam.
The president told the rowdy rally in swing state Ohio that Romney would “rubber stamp” some “bad ideas” such as tax cuts for the rich and slashing spending cuts on social programs brewed by conservatives in Congress.
“Ohio, I tell you what, we cannot give him that chance… This is not just another election, this is a make or break moment for the middle class.
“We have been through too much to turn back now,” he said, striking the central theme of his bid for a second White House term, six months before the November 6 vote.
“That’s the choice in this election and that is why I am running for a second term as president of the United States,” Obama said, drawing loud chants of “four more years” from a crowd of 14,000 people in a sports arena.
Obama noted that he had taken office in 2009 amid the deepest economic crisis since the 1930s, in an implicit recognition that times remain tough for many people for whom a recovery remains a mirage amid 8.1 percent unemployment.
“We didn’t quit. We don’t quit, together we are fighting our way back.”
“This crisis took years to develop and the economy is still facing headwinds and it will take sustained, persistent effort — yours and mine for America to fully recover,” Obama said.
“That is the truth. And we all know it. We are making progress and now we face a choice.”
In his most forensic examination of Romney’s record yet, Obama praised the former Massachusetts governor and millionaire venture capitalist as a patriot and a good family man, who had done well in business.
“But I think he has drawn the wrong lessons from those experiences. He sincerely believes (when) CEOs and wealthy investors like him make money the rest of us will automatically prosper as well.”
In a statement, Romney’s spokesperson Andrea Saul dismissed what she called Obama’s “lofty campaign speeches.”
According to Saul, “the fact remains that American families are struggling on his watch: to pay their bills, find a job and keep their homes.”
US voters in November “will hold him accountable for his broken promises and ineffective leadership,” Saul said.
Earlier, popular First Lady Michelle Obama reached out to blue collar workers still feeling the lash of the recession, stressing her own humble beginnings, and her family’s struggle to send her and her brother to college.
She painted Obama as a man who rose from his own family’s struggles, striking an implicit contrast with the wealthy upbringing and current wealth of Romney.
“He is the son of a single mother …. he is the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to catch a bus to her job at the bank.
“Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. That is what you need to know America is those are the experiences that have made him the man he is today.”
“All you have to guide you is your life experiences, your values. When you are making those impossible choices … it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for.
“We all know what Barack Obama is. And who he is.”
Later the Obamas were heading to another crucial swing state in the November 6 election, Virginia for a second rally on the first official weekend of campaigning for the president’s bid for a second term.
Romney, who must almost certainly win Ohio to have a shot at capturing the White House, welcomed Obama to the bellwether state with a simple message: “Where are the jobs?”
“I recognize, of course, as do all Americans, that you inherited an economic crisis,” Romney wrote in an opinion article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper on Friday.
“But you’ve now had three years to turn things around. The record of those three years is clear. Your policies have failed, not only in Ohio, but across the nation.”
An average of national opinion polls by the RealClearPolitics website shows Obama with a narrow three-point lead over Romney — 47 to 44 percent.
The president’s approval rating generally sits in the high 40s, just below the 50 percent threshold that presidents need to feel confident about reelection.
On Friday, Obama suffered a blow when a second straight month of disappointing job creation was revealed in Labor Department figures showing the economy pumped out only a net 115,000 jobs in April.
This video is from CNN, broadcast Saturday, May 5, 2012.