President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney traded barbs Tuesday over a proposal that aims to raise taxes on the wealthy.
They were in two different swing states — Obama in Iowa, Romney in Colorado — but their goal was the same: a winning message on an economic issue that could decide the election.
Obama was on day two of his push for a plan that would extend the George W. Bush-era tax rates for income less than $250,000, while slamming Romney and other Republicans for wanting to extend the cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
But Romney, forced to move off the discussion of unemployment for the second straight day, blasted the proposal as extreme and said it added “insult to injury” on the heels of a lackluster jobs report last week.
“At the very time the American people are seeing fewer jobs created than we need, the president announces he’s going to make it harder for jobs to be created,” Romney told an energized crowd at a town hall in Colorado. “I just don’t think this president understands how our economy works.”
But at a community college in Cedar Rapids, an hour after Romney delivered his remarks, Obama said allowing the tax cuts to expire for the middle class at the end of the year would be a “huge blow to our economy at a time when we need as much help as we can get.”
“Doesn’t it make sense to agree to keep taxes low for the 98 percent of Americans who are working hard and can’t afford a tax hike?” Obama said to rowdy applause. “For us to give a trillion dollars’ worth of tax breaks to folks who don’t need it … and aren’t even asking for it — that doesn’t make sense.”
The president spent much of the day touting his new tax plan as senior advisers, including David Axelrod, spent the day on Capitol Hill selling the initiative. Before his community-college rally, Obama met with a middle-class family in Iowa that could lose as much as $2,000 if Congress doesn’t pass the tax extension.
By touting his tax proposal, Obama was able to keep the narrative focused mostly on that discussion — not the job numbers.
But it also provided the president with an opportunity to argue to the electorate that he — not Romney — is the champion of the middle class, the swing demographic that will likely tip November’s election.
While Iowa helped catapult Obama to the presidency, it has moved into the toss-up column. Obama — seemingly aware of his standing with voters there — has appeared in the state half a dozen times since he announced his reelection bid.
“We’re coming here because this is a state where we want to compete, we want to win, and the president cares deeply about the people here and he’s looking forward to seeing some familiar faces,” Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, told reporters on Tuesday.
Likewise, Romney’s path to victory would likely include Colorado.
And both candidates turned up the heat in the battleground states. Along with pushing his tax plan, Obama seized the opportunity to slam Romney on outsourcing —a favored topic by the campaign in recent weeks.
“Gov. Romney has experience owning companies that were called ‘pioneers’ in the business of outsourcing,” he said, adding that his experience “has been working with outstanding members of labor and great managers to save the American auto industry.”
But Romney looked to battle back on the issue, dubbing Obama the true “outsourcer in chief.”
“He likes to talk about outsourcing. He’s run some interesting attack ads on me on that topic. You may have seen that, and interestingly, an independent, unbiased fact-checking organization looked at his ads and looked at that attack and said it’s false and misleading,” Romney said. “But it is interesting that when it comes to outsourcing, that this president has been outsourcing a good deal of American jobs himself by putting money into energy companies, solar and wind energy companies that end up making their products outside the United States.”
Romney also attempted to use the president’s tax proposal to pivot back to a discussion of unemployment rates and the economy. Branding Obama’s plan an “extreme liberal” position that would halt job creation, Romney argued the president shouldn’t be trusted on taxes because job creation remains stagnant.
“The very idea of raising taxes on small businesses and job creators at the time we need to create more jobs is the sort of thing only an extreme liberal could come up with,” Romney said.
By contrast, Romney said he wanted to lower marginal tax rates in an attempt to spur economic growth.
“For me, it’s all about jobs, it’s creating jobs for the American people,” Romney said.
But during his stop in Iowa on Tuesday, Obama slammed Romney for believing that “prosperity comes from the top down.
“We tried what they’re selling and it didn’t work and somehow they think you don’t remember,” Obama said.
He went on to explain that “our mission right now isn’t just to recover from the recession — it’s to reclaim the basic security that so many Americans have lost.”