By Amie Parnes - 07/13/12 06:34 PM EDT
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- President Obama mocked Republicans on Friday for seeking to repeal the healthcare law 33 times instead of working to pass a tax extension that would help the middle class.
Kicking off a two-day, five-stop bus tour in Virginia, Obama sought to hammer home his latest message to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for those making under $250,000 a year as part of an effort that, he says, would help the middle class.
In his speech at a local high school, the president accused Republicans of holding tax cuts “hostage” and of not being “serious” about deficit reduction if they want to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the top two percent of taxpayers.
“33 votes to repeal the healthcare bill,” he said before a raucous crowd of 1,400 supporters. “All it would take is one vote to make sure that all of you don’t see your taxes go up next year. You tell me what would be a better use of time.”
During the speech, Obama, stepping into professorial mode, tried to debunk the Republican criticism that the extension would be a hindrance on the economy -- especially for small business owners.
“By the way, this is the first $250,000 of income, which means that even millionaires will get a little bit of a tax break because on that first $250,000, their taxes wouldn’t go up,” he said.
The tax cut message appeared to underline the contrast with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who the campaign is portraying as an out-of-touch millionaire who wants to implement the policies of former President George W. Bush and “top down economics.”
“I have to tell you, I think they’re wrong,” Obama said. “If you try something and it doesn’t work, why would you try it again? Why would you want to go back to that?”
“I’ve got a different idea, I don’t think top down economics works,” he said. “I believe we grow this economy from the middle out, from the bottom up. Folks like me, we don’t need a tax break.”
The speech comes on the heels of an all-out assault launched by the Obama campaign on Romney and his work as the founder of Bain Capital, where they accuse the former Massachusetts governor of making profits from outsourcing U.S. jobs and of lying about his tenure at the private equity firm.
In the speech on Friday, before a predominantly African-American crowd, Obama didn’t mention Bain. But he did aim to define the differences between himself and his opponent, whom he said had “two fundamentally different positions” on everything from an exit out of Afghanistan to immigration.
“Mr. Romney says that undocumented workers … should self deport,” he said.
Even before Obama made his remarks on Friday, the Romney campaign pushed back, accusing the president of failed policies.
“In the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama came to Virginia and touted ‘the very beginnings of the end of this recession,' ” said Amanda Henneberg, a Romney spokesperson. “Three years later, after weak economic growth, disappointing jobs numbers, plummeting consumer confidence and government spending out of control, Americans don’t feel that the Obama economy is working for them.”
Romney and Obama -- who traveled to the battleground state on Friday with Sen. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine -- are vying for the state’s 13 electoral votes — in a state with various demographics including African Americans and military families. Obama’s trip marked the 15th time that he’s been to the Commonwealth. Romney has been to the state six times.
Speaking to the overflow crowd at the high school cafeteria in Virginia Beach before the address, Obama said, “When we win Virginia, we’re going to have won the election.”
After arriving in this city, which Sen. John McCain carried in 2008, Obama stopped at a local cafe, where he drank ice water and talked to several military wives.