Obama Courts Ohio Voters With Middle-Class Tax, Jobs Pitch

President Barack Obama, campaigning in Ohio, emphasized a study of Mitt Romney’s tax plans and said the Republican candidate would cut rates for the wealthy and shift the tax burden to middle-income Americans.

Romney is “asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut,” Obama told supporters at a rally at a park in Mansfield, Ohio. “We do not need more tax cuts for folks that are already doing well.”

Romney proposes cutting rates and eliminating breaks and maintains his plan won’t increase the budget deficit or transfer the tax burden from top earners to everyone else. According to a study released today by three researchers at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, that won’t be possible because there aren’t enough tax breaks for high-income taxpayers to offset the benefits they’d receive.

Obama’s plan would continue the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts for all except those in the top 2 percent of earners. His plan would limit, though not eliminate, tax breaks for high earners. “I’ve got a different plan for America than Mr. Romney’s,” the president said.

Obama, who addressed a rally later in Akron, was in Ohio for the second time in two weeks as he tries to build enthusiasm among Democrats in this swing state for his economic message targeting middle-class voters.

Obama Lead

Ohio, with 18 electoral votes, has voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1964. Obama holds a 50-44 advantage over Romney in the state, according to a poll released today by Quinnipiac University, CBS News and the New York Times. The survey of 1,193 Ohio voters was conducted July 24-30 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

The poll showed Obama with a 6 percentage-point lead in Florida, where he’ll campaign tomorrow, and an 11-point edge in Pennsylvania. Obama is scheduled to be in Virginia tomorrow as he steps up visits to swing states.

Obama on July 16 visited Cincinnati, in the southwest part of the state, a historically Republican area. Earlier last month, the president campaigned by bus in northern Ohio.

“There’s not an inch of Ohio that the president does not love to visit,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters yesterday.

The Obama campaign yesterday announced a new television ad, to air in Ohio and other swing states, which criticizes Romney’s support of tax-cut extensions for high earners at a time of worsening federal deficits.

Romney Response

“President Obama continues to tout liberal studies calling for more tax hikes and more government spending,” Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said in a statement. “Mitt Romney believes that lower tax rates and less government will jump-start the economy and create jobs.”

The study cited by Obama said Romney’s plan would shift the tax burden from the wealthy toward those earning less than $200,000 a year, and wouldn’t reduce the budget deficit.

The study concluded that in 2015, the tax-burden shift from those with incomes exceeding $200,000 a year to those earning less than that amount would be $86 billion, or at least $33 billion if the rate cuts generate economic growth.

It was conducted by Adam Looney, an economist who worked in the White House under Obama, and two other researchers at Brookings.

The economy, and how to spur growth, are central issues in the presidential campaign.

Ohio’s Role

David B. Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron, said the industrial corridor of northern Ohio “is going to be very important to the president. He needs to win with big margins in the northern part of the state because other parts of the state like the southwest are going to go for Romney.”

“Northeast Ohio has more Democrats than any other part of the state,” Cohen said. “His challenge is to get those folks out to the polls in big numbers and, with the economy going the way it is, enthusiasm or the lack of enthusiasm could be a real challenge for the president.”

Northern Ohio has received a boost from the resurgence of the auto industry, Cohen said.

Economic Health

Jeanne Gides, 61, a school psychologist who attended the Obama rally in Akron, said she had supported Obama in 2008 and would stand by him in November. She said the local economy is “slow, but it’s getting better.”

“Look at how he brought the automobile industry back,” Gides said. “It’s very important here. That’s really boosted the economy.”

Ohio ranks sixth among the 50 states in its rate of improving economic health, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States from the first quarter of 2011 through the first quarter of this year.

The state’s unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in June, lower than the national rate of 8.2 percent and down from a high of 10.6 percent in January 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate for Akron was 6.6 percent in May, the most recent month for which figures are available. The jobless rate in May for Mansfield was 7.9 percent.

A Republican-backed protest was planned to greet Obama’s arrival today in Mansfield, where Pentagon budget cuts could lead to job losses at the air base.

The Mansfield News Journal reported that the Ohio Air National Guard’s 179th Airlift Wing and at least 350 full-time jobs were at risk because of planned budget cuts. The story was being promoted by the Republican National Committee.

Josh Earnest, the deputy White House press secretary, said the Pentagon was trimming the budget for C-27J transport planes, including those based at Mansfield.

“The president is committed to working with the Department of Defense to find a mission for Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, so that the men and women who serve there can continue to make their important contribution to our national security,” he said.

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