MANSFIELD, Ohio -- Swinging through a critical region of a critical battleground state, President Obama on Wednesday ratcheted up the rhetoric to paint Republican opponent Mitt Romney as favoring the rich over middle-class Americans.
This time he was armed with a new study by bipartisan Washington think tank Tax Policy Center that projected that Mr. Romney's support for continuing all of the Bush-era tax cuts plus additional cuts and breaks would help the wealthy but would have to be paid for with a net increase for the middle class.
"The entire centerpiece of my opponent's economic plan is a new $5 trillion tax cut on top of the Bush tax cuts," Mr. Obama told a crowd of about 2,000 gathered in a downtown Mansfield park. The visit was the President's ninth to Ohio since his bid for re-election began.
"Now, the bulk of the tax cut would go to the very top. A lot of it would go to the wealthiest 1 percent of all households. Folks making more than $3 million a year, the top one-tenth of 1 percent, would get a tax cut worth almost a quarter of a million dollars. Now think about that … Under my opponent's plan, who do you think gets the bill for these $250,000 tax cuts? You do."
Although Mr. Obama called it an independent study and specifically noted in Akron that the center includes a former Bush staff member, the Tax Policy Center also includes an economist formerly with the Obama Administration.
"If Governor Romney wants to keep his word and pay for this plan, then he'd have to cut tax breaks that middle-class families depend on, to pay for your home, the home mortgage deduction, to pay for your health care and health-care deduction, to send your kids to college," Mr. Obama said.
"That means the average middle-class family with children, according to this study, would be hit with a tax increase of more than $2,000," Mr. Obama said. "And here's the thing. He's not asking you to contribute more to pay down the debts. He's not asking you to pay more to invest in our children's education or rebuild our roads or put more folks back to work. He's asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut.
"In order to afford just one $250,000 tax cut for somebody like Mr. Romney, 125 families like yours would have to pay an another $2,000 in taxes each and every year," he said.
Mr. Obama has called for the renewal of the Bush-era tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000 a year, but he wants to allow tax rates for those making more than that to resort to those of the Clinton era at the end of the year.
"I don't believe government can solve every problem," Mr. Obama said before an extremely friendly crowd of about 3,000 inside the John S. Knight Center in Akron. "Not every government program works. Government can't help somebody who doesn't want to help themselves, so we're cutting things that don't work. I've already cut $1 trillion worth of spending, but we've gotta balance that.
"I'm not going to pay for massive new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires by gutting the investments that we need to keep the middle class strong," he said.
The Romney campaign called the report biased and said it didn't take into consideration the economic growth that would be expected to accompany corporate tax reforms and deficit reduction.
While the crowds inside the events were clearly in his corner, Mr. Obama faced a barrage of criticism for landing at the Mansfield Lahm National Guard's 179th Airlift Wing base, which has four C27-J aircraft that are threatened by proposed post-war Pentagon cuts.
"The President has had no problem asking Ohioans to roll out the welcome mat for frequent campaign trips to Ohio," said Romney campaign spokesman Chris Maloney. "I think what Ohioans deserve in return is an explanation for these policies which are crushing our local communities.
"Not only is the White House aloof with respect to the airbase that the President's going to be landing at today, but additionally his policies have wrought a war on coal and coal communities in eastern Ohio the likes of which our state has not seen in some time," he said.
The White House later stressed that, although it is rethinking the C27-J aircraft, that doesn't mean the National Guard base is in danger.
Pat Hightower, Mansfield's 5th Ward councilman, said she believes Mr. Obama is the right man for the country right now, despite questions about the future role of the local Air Force base.
"We faced [potential base cutbacks] before, and we overcame them, so I pray we're going to overcome it this time," she said.
Mr. Obama's similar speeches in Mansfield and Akron roughly three hours apart followed the release of a new Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times swing-state poll that showed Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney by 6 percentage points in Ohio, just outside the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.
Mr. Obama leads with 50 percent of 1,193 likely voters questioned compared to 44 percent for Mr. Romney. He leads 51 percent to 45 percent in Florida and 53 percent to 42 percent in Pennsylvania.
The poll appears to reinforce a late June poll of registered voters by Quinnipiac that had Mr. Obama up 9 points in Ohio, a poll dismissed by some at the time as inconsistent with the tight race competing polls were showing. The Romney campaign accused the poll of over-sampling Democrats.
No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio, and no Democrat has done it since John F. Kennedy in 1960. In fact, no one has won the presidency without carrying at least two of the three polled swing swings since Mr. Kennedy.
"It's a very critical time in the campaign, I think," former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland said outside the Mansfield event.
"This is the time that people start solidifying their thinking about who they're going to support. We've got less than 100 days to go, and I think the President is well positioned."
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.