For months, the Republican nominating contest has dominated national headlines, with Romney fending off intense challenges from more conservative alternatives. But with the former Massachusetts governor pulling ahead in the delegate count and the White House moving into full reelection mode, both sides are now treating the campaign as a duel between Romney and Obama.
The president took credit for saving the auto industry, preventing a historic economic collapse and passing a sweeping health-care overhaul (though he did not mention the Supreme Court case challenging the law). His work is unfinished in Washington, he said, and he exhorted wildly enthusiastic crowds in deep-blue Burlington, Vt., and suburban Portland to help him win another term — so that more change can come.
Obama also signaled the broad themes in his quest for reelection and offered his sharpest critique yet of what he called the GOP’s vision for America. Although he never named Romney, he framed a choice between middle-class security and “you’re on your own” economics. He rebuked his detractors for claiming the edge in “values.” He portrayed Republicans as more extreme and less willing to seek bipartisan solutions than ever. And he embraced his accomplishments, even the controversial ones, with a new vigor.
“I warned you in the campaign this was going to be hard,” Obama told a packed arena at Southern Maine Community College, where his speech was punctuated by shrieks of support. “Big change is hard. It takes time. It takes more than a single year. It takes more than a single term. It takes more than a single president.”
Romney, in Wisconsin, delivered the latest of what his campaign calls his “framing speeches,” this one about “restoring America’s promise.” It was a passionate defense of America’s free-enterprise system, which he said has been under attack by an administration that considers business as “the villain and not the solution.”
“In Barack Obama’s government-centered society, the government must do more because the economy is doomed to do less,” Romney said. “When you attack business and vilify success, you will have less business and less success.”
Romney, stopping short of labeling Obama a socialist, saying: “President Obama is transforming America into something very different than the land of the free and the land of opportunity. And we know where that transformation leads. There are other nations that have chosen that path and it leads to chronic high unemployment, crushing debt and stagnant wages. Sound familiar?”