President Obama takes his attack on Republicans to Eric Cantor's district

President Obama talked about health care and taxes during a backyard speech in Iowa, then headed to Virginia.
By Anne E. Kornblut and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 4:36 AM

RICHMOND - President Obama walked into the back yard of one of his chief congressional critics on Wednesday to continue his blunt assault on Republicans and their policies.

At a recreation center in House Whip Eric Cantor's district, Obama accused the Republican of proposing intellectually dishonest policies as part of the GOP's recently released "Pledge to America."

"I know your congressman here I think has strong ideas about what he says he wants to do," Obama said. But, he said, the math behind the Republican proposal - which includes keeping the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans while balancing the budget - "doesn't add up."

Taking the argument directly to Cantor and other Republican leaders is part of a new, aggressive approach for Obama, who has been criticized by members of his party for being too cautious and concerned about offending his opponents.

(A glimmer of hope for Democrats?)

With five weeks until the midterm elections, Obama seems to be shedding some of that caution in favor of a sharper tone aimed at Republicans - and even Democrats.

On Monday, the president dismissed Republicans as "not serious." At a rally before more than 20,000 people in Madison, Wis., on Tuesday night, Obama accused the GOP of working to "hoodwink a whole bunch of folks all across the country" about his governmental philosophy. And he twice sarcastically dismissed Republicans as not "interested in facts."

Some of Obama's recent moves, such as a trio of casual, backyard-style events this week, are part of a tactical plan to put a stronger focus on his Republican rivals and demonstrate what their leadership would look like if they won control of Congress. Earlier this month, Obama gave an economic speech in Cleveland in direct response to an address there by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who would probably become speaker if the House switched hands.

Obama has also chided members of his own party for going wobbly before the election. In an interview in Rolling Stone published this week, he told Democrats that it is time to "wake up" and pay attention to the administration's accomplishments.

(Obama gets an earful from upset voters)

In Madison, Obama seemed at times like he was testing new material, making wry remarks and tossing in a little sarcasm, as if he were letting the largely college-age audience in on a joke.

At one point, responding to criticism that he hasn't done enough yet, he said, "I've only been here two years, guys. . . . I figured I needed to have something to do for the next couple of years."

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