CLEVELAND — President Barack Obama said November's election will give voters the chance to break a stalemate about America's direction, declaring Thursday in a campaign speech in battleground Ohio that he and Republican Mitt Romney offer "two fundamentally different views" about how to grow the economy and create jobs.
Five months before the election, Obama sought to frame the choice for voters on the economy, telling about 1,500 supporters in Cleveland that Romney would join congressional Republicans in revisiting GOP policies of cutting taxes and gutting regulations. At one point, Obama specifically addressed skeptical voters and independents watching on television. "If you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney," Obama said.
"What's holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take and this election is your chance to break that stalemate," Obama said. He argued that the election presents a choice between two stark visions of how to "create strong, sustained growth, how to pay down our long-term debt and most of all, how to create good middle class jobs."
"The only thing that can break the stalemate is you," Obama said to cheers.
The president's speech came in a month marked by bad economic news, something that could imperil Obama's re-election bid. May employment numbers showed that the U.S. economy created a disappointing 69,000 jobs and that the jobless rate ticked up to 8.2 percent. This week, the Federal Reserve released data showing that the median family net worth shrank between 2007 and 2010 to levels not seen since 1992.
Obama cited a litany of domestic spending cuts that would affect Americans if Romney and GOP lawmakers succeed in adopting their ideas. The president acknowledged that "of course the economy isn't where it needs to be" but said the election-year debate will pivot on how the nation grows faster and creates jobs.
Obama and Romney spoke about 250 miles apart on Thursday. The president was at a community college in Cleveland; Romney spoke at a manufacturing company in Cincinnati. Both regions are key to their individual efforts to secure Ohio's 18 electoral votes. Obama won Ohio in 2008.
In his remarks, Romney told supporters that Obama had failed to deliver an economic recovery and had made job creation more difficult. "Don't forget he's been president for 3 1/2 years. Talk is cheap," Romney said.