Obama was making campaign stops in Republican-friendly Mansfield and the Democratic stronghold of Akron on Wednesday, rallying voters after a week of low-profile fundraisers and formal speeches in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
The president looked to reprise the middle-class tax debate as Romney wrapped up a three-country foreign trip and the monthly jobs report loomed on Friday. The House on Wednesday is expected to consider Obama’s plan to extend President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples making less than $250,000, along with a Republican proposal to extend the tax cuts for everyone.
Taxes have become a defining issue in the presidential race, and the outcome of the tax debate isn’t expected to be decided until after November. With less than 100 days before the election, the campaign remains tight, with both campaigns trying to pump up their core supporters while competing for a narrow slice of undecided voters in about eight states that could tip the election.
Obama’s campaign released a new ad Tuesday focused on taxes and the deficit, calling Romney’s approach a way to provide a “new $250,000 tax cut for millionaires.” The ad said Romney’s approach on tax cuts, coupled with increased military spending, would add “trillions to the deficit.”
“To cut the deficit we need everyone to pay their fair share,” Obama said in the ad’s tag line, looking into the camera. The spot was airing in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Florida, part of what detailed advertising records show is a heavy investment in the range of $30 million during August.
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams called it a “ridiculous ad coming from a president who shattered his pledge to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.”
Obama has repeatedly pressed for the one-year tax extension, arguing that it would provide relief for families and certainty for businesses wary of hiring workers at a time of concerns over the global economy. The White House says it would provide an average of $1,600 a year in tax cuts for more than 100 million families.
Republicans say allowing taxes to rise on higher earners will hurt business owners who create jobs. The Senate approved a Democratic bill based on Obama’s proposal, but the measure stands no chance in the Republican-led House. Romney has proposed cutting taxes for everyone, including the wealthy, and making the Bush tax cuts permanent.
The issue has created both a policy and personal tug of war, with Democrats calling on Romney to release more of his income tax returns. Romney, who would be among the nation’s wealthiest presidents if elected, has released just one year of personal income tax returns and promised to release a second but no more.
Home from meetings with foreign leaders in Britain, Israel and Poland, Romney released a new television commercial designed to introduce him to voters in battleground states who know little or nothing about his personal background.
In the ad, Romney speaks of his years in private business, in government and as the head of the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City a decade ago, saying, “I want to use those experiences to help Americans have a better future.” It followed weeks of efforts by Obama’s team to define Romney as a wealthy financier whose private equity firm benefited at the expense of workers.
Romney was spending Wednesday in private meetings at the campaign’s Boston headquarters as speculation swirls about the selection of his running mate. The campaign is preparing to ramp up his public schedule in the weeks leading up to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., at the end of August.
Obama’s ninth trip of the year to Ohio was taking him to Mansfield, home to many small auto suppliers and manufacturers, and Akron, the nation’s longtime tire and rubber capital. Obama carried Ohio in 2008 with 52 percent.
Richland County, where Mansfield is located, has been fertile territory for Republican presidential campaigns going back to Ronald Reagan, and John McCain beat Obama in the county by a wide margin in 2008. But Obama’s team views the region north of Columbus as open to his record on taxes and manufacturing, helped by Obama’s rescue of automakers General Motors and Chrysler in 2009.
Ahead of Obama’s arrival, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a potential vice presidential pick for Romney, said the president’s budget plan threatened the C-27J cargo aircraft and hundreds of Air National Guard jobs based at the Mansfield airport, where Obama was landing.
The Pentagon budget proposal has called for a cut of about 5,000 from the Air National Guard as well as 134 aircraft, including four C27-J aircraft based in Mansfield. The Pentagon plan has met stiff resistance from the nation’s governors and members of Congress.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama is “committed to working with the Department of Defense to find a mission for Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base.”
Associated Press writer Steve Peoples contributed to this report.