POLAND, Ohio -- The presidential campaign may be hitting high gear, but many Americans are still occupied with other things during the summertime.
But on Friday, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney traded barbs over something that Americans will find highly relevant right now: summer vacations.
Romney, speaking to the press about the monthly jobs report at a hardware store near his summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, was asked if it is "hypocritical" for him to have taken a vacation this week, since he and his campaign have criticized Obama in the past for golfing and vacationing too much.
Romney turned the question around into a political attack on the president.
"I'm delighted to be able to take a vacation with my family. I think all Americans appreciate the memories that they have with their children and their grandchildren. I hope that more Americans are able to take vacations," Romney said. "And if I'm president of the United States, I'm going to work very hard to make sure we have good jobs for all Americans who want good jobs and, as part of a good job, the capacity to take a vacation now and then with their loved ones."
Obama, appearing less than an hour later here in northeast Ohio, brought up the topic of vacations on his own, and used it to portray himself as a man of the people and to make a dig at Romney's exclusive vacation spot.
Obama said that before middle class families fell behind financially over the past decade, there was a basic expectation in America for blue-collar workers that "if families were of good character and had good values, you were willing to work hard, then you could find a job, make a decent wage, and eventually if you save enough you could own a home."
"And maybe you took a vacation every once in a while. It wasn’t necessarily some fancy vacation in some fancy resort," Obama said, in a subtle swipe at Romney's estate, which Reuters described as a "5,400-square-foot contemporary home set on an 11-acre lot with a wide water frontage and estimated value of about $10 million."
Obama spoke of the trips he went on as a child.
"The best vacation I had when I was a kid was my grandmother and my mom and my sister, we traveled around the country on Greyhound buses and on trains, and we stayed at Howard Johnson's," Obama said. "And I was 11, so if there was any kind of swimming pool, no matter how big it was, you spent the whole day there and then you were really excited to go to where the vending machine was and the ice machine, and get the ice. It was sort of like a big deal."
Obama's middle class, single-parent upbringing has always been a major part of his appeal to voters. But he has ascended into millionaire status thanks to the sales of his two books, and since becoming president he has vacationed in a $50,000-per-week rental on Martha's Vineyard in the summer and on the Hawaiian island of Oahu over the Christmas holiday. There, he stayed at a home that the Washington Post described as "a five-bedroom estate centered on a pool/lagoon in the entryway and a sprawling lanai with ocean views out back."