Romney was dismissive of Obama’s address even before it was delivered, calling it a substitute for results.
“You may have heard that President Obama is on the other side of the state and he’s going to be delivering a speech on the economy. He’s doing that because he hasn’t delivered a recovery for the economy,” the Republican said. “And he’s going to be a person of eloquence as he describes his plans for making the economy better, but don’t forget he’s been president for 31
2 years, and talk is cheap. Actions speak very loud.”
Romney added that Obama’s policies have “made it harder for entrepreneurs to start a business” and have “made it less likely for businesses like this to hire more people.”
The dueling speeches came at a moment of high anxiety for Obama’s Democratic allies, who have lost some confidence in his ability to vanquish what many of them had once regarded as a weak Republican opponent. Some have urged an overhaul of the president’s message, one less focused on Bush’s record and more attuned to the economic pain that Americans continue to feel.
In a memorandum earlier this week, political consultant James Carville and pollster Stan Greenberg warned that Obama could face “an impossible headwind in November if we do not move to a new narrative.”
Obama’s strategists, however, have said that as president, he has no choice but to stand on his record, even as he argues that he offers a better route for the future.
The speech did include evidence that Obama’s team is trying to elevate and sharpen his message. The president did not repeat the attacks that his campaign has made on Romney’s record, both as a corporate turnaround artist and as a governor of Massachusetts. Instead, he aimed to provide a contrast to their visions.
And although many of his lines brought cheers from the crowd of an estimated 1,500, Obama said, “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. . . . If you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney.
. . . You should vote for his allies in Congress. You should take them for their word.”
Obama made a nod to the political difficulties he is facing. Some of them, he acknowledged, have been of his own making.
“Over the next five months, this election will take many twists and many turns. Polls will go up and polls will go down,” he said. “There will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about. You may have heard I recently made my own unique contribution to that process.”
That was a reference to Obama’s statement at a news conference last Friday that “
the private sector is doing fine.”
It was part of a larger point that Obama made that the public sector is shrinking, even while private companies are hiring.
But his words were tone-deaf enough to spawn a wave of Republican advertisements, including one released Thursday by the Romney campaign that juxtaposes the president’s words with images of unemployed workers standing in line and grim economic statistics.
Staff writer Philip Rucker contributed to this report.