President Barack Obama took his campaign to Republican lawmaker Eric Cantor’s home turf, the second day in a row he sought support in Virginia, a once solidly Republican state that he won four years ago.
Obama, a Democrat, continued attacking the economic policies of Republican candidate Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans, saying they favor the rich, while he seeks to extend Bush-era tax cuts only for those families with an adjusted gross income of less than $250,000 and military families.
“We can’t afford to go back to top-down economics,” Obama said yesterday in Glen Allen, a Republican-leaning suburb of Richmond in the district represented by House Majority Leader Cantor. While Obama lost Cantor’s district in 2008, he won the Henrico County suburbs surrounding Richmond by 679 votes of 116,000 cast.
Republican economic policy boils down to “tax cuts for the wealthy, roll back regulation. That’s their plan,” said Obama, who began speaking in a driving rain without an umbrella. By the end of his twenty-minute speech, his shirt was soaked through and audience members were dripping wet.
“What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington” between Democratic and Republican views, the president said. “This election is about breaking that stalemate.”
Attack on Romney
Obama’s campaign released a new television ad yesterday that focused on Romney’s time in private equity, accusing him of “outsourcing” jobs and stashing his money in offshore accounts. The ad, set to Romney singing the song “America the Beautiful,” is scheduled to air in nine battleground states.
The message is intended to highlight the president’s differences with Romney, co-founder of the Boston-based Bain Capital LLC. Obama says Republicans favor the wealthy and Romney profited from the loss of jobs in the U.S. to overseas competitors during his time at Bain.
“I don’t want a pioneer in outsourcing,” Obama said. “I want some in-sourcing.”
The new ad followed Romney’s appearances on broadcast and cable news shows July 13 saying that Obama campaign attacks on him are “disgusting and demeaning.”
About 89 percent of the 41,671 campaign ads that the Obama campaign ran in the 14-day period ended July 9 carried an anti-Romney message, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising on local broadcast and national cable and network stations.
Obama, even as his campaign promoted its own negative ad, complained yesterday in Centreville, Virginia, about the tone of political advertising attacking him, saying it amounts to a single message that “the economy isn’t where it needs to be and it’s all Obama’s fault.”
Yesterday afternoon, and in a fresh -- and dry -- white shirt, Obama spoke at Centreville High School in Fairfax County, which has become more Democratic in recent elections because of shifts in demographics, including an influx of Hispanic voters. Obama won the 11th congressional district, which also includes Prince William County, in 2008 with 57 percent of the vote.
While Obama took Virginia by 6 percentage points against Republican John McCain in 2008, both campaigns are forecasting a close contest this year. Obama held a 3 percentage point lead over Romney in an average of six polls taken since mid-May, as compiled by the website Real Clear Politics.
“If we win Virginia then we will win the election,” Obama said in an interview yesterday with WAVY-TV in Glen Allen.
Virginia’s unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in May, down from a high of 7.3 percent in January 2010. By comparison, the rate nationally was 8.2 percent and hit 10 percent in October 2009.
Still, Virginia was among four electoral battleground states that showed declining economic health in the first three months of the year, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States. The index is based on the performance of local-company shares, tax collections, home prices, mortgage delinquencies, job growth and personal income.
Obama said Virginia-based defense jobs will be safe if congressional action is taken to prevent automatic cuts to the defense budget, which would take effect in January.
“The military has gone up enormously since 2001, and rightfully so,” Obama told WAVY-TV. “As long as the defense sequester doesn’t go through we will continue to have a strong military, stable military presence and operations here in Virginia.”
Obama has been to Virginia 16 times since announcing his run for re-election in April 2011, and Romney has visited seven times since announcing his candidacy in June 2011.
Dustin Cable, a Charlottesville-based demographer for the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, said the key to Virginia is going to be to energize white, college-educated voters in northern Virginia because that’s where most of the state’s population is concentrated.
“Romney is sure using the economy as a persuasive tool, he could actually get some of these white northern Virginia voters that Obama won last time,” Cable said.