The reprieve from partisan sniping between the presidential candidates during Hurricane Sandy ended on Thursday, as Mitt Romney gave a barn-burner stump speech to a crowd in Roanoke, Va., and President Barack Obama responded shortly after in Green Bay, Wis.
The Romney campaign had suggested on Wednesday night that the candidate would stay above the fray during the final stretch of the campaign, presenting a vision for his first term in office that matched the more serious tone of the past few days. That vision was offered on Thursday, but accompanying it was a slew of well-rehearsed attack lines, as well as some new ones.
Do you want four more years like the last four years? Do you want four more years where 23 million Americans are struggling to have a good job? Do you want four more years where earnings are going down every year? Do you want four more years of trillion-dollar deficits in Washington? How about four more years of gridlock in Washington? There's no question in my view that we really can't have four more years like the last four years. I know the Obama folks are chanting four more years, four more years, but our chant is this -- five more days, five more days. That's our chant.
You know, we're going to have to come up with a better slogan tomorrow, or a different one at least. I know the president's been trying to figure out some way to suggest he's got some new ideas. Because with all these people out of work, with three million more women in poverty today than when he took office, with 15 million more people on food stamps than when he took office, he's got to find something to suggest it's going to be better over the next four years. And so he came up with an idea last week, which is he's going to create the Department of Business. I don't think adding a new chair in his cabinet will help add millions of jobs on Main Street.
I mean, unfortunately what you've seen before your very eyes is a campaign that keeps on shrinking and shrinking and shrinking to smaller things. He's been out talking about how he's going to save Big Bird and then playing silly word games with my last name, or first, and then attacking me day in and day out. Attacking me doesn't make an agenda, doesn't get people back to work. We don't need the Secretary of Business to understand business. We need a president who understands business, and I do. That's why I'll help get this economy going.
Obama suggested creating a Secretary of Business during a recent interview with MSNBC, though the concept has been floated for years. It wouldn't result in an expansion of government bureaucracy, as Romney suggested, but rather a consolidation of it.
"I’ve said that I want to consolidate a whole bunch of government agencies," Obama said during the interview. "We should have one secretary of Business, instead of nine different departments that are dealing with things like giving loans to [the Small Business Administration] or helping companies with exports."
Regardless, the Romney campaign released a new ad on Wednesday slamming Obama for the proposal.
An hour after Romney finished his address, the president fired back. In his first campaign speech following his tour of the hurricane's damage in New Jersey, he pitched himself as the candidate of change while lambasting his opponent as nothing more than an adept salesman. From his speech in Green Bay:
Now, in the closing weeks of this campaign, Governor Romney has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up these very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we've been cleaning up after for past four years. And he's offering them up as change. He's saying he's the candidate of change.
Well, let me tell you, Wisconsin, we know what change looks like. And what the governor's offering sure ain't change. Giving more power back to the biggest banks isn't change. Leaving millions without health insurance isn't change. Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy isn't change. Turning Medicare into a voucher is change, but we don't want that change. Refusing to answer questions about the details of your policies isn't change. Ruling out compromise by pledging to rubber stamp the Tea Party's agenda as president, that's definitely not change. In fact, that's exactly the attitude in Washington that needs to go.
This article was updated to include remarks from the president.