President Barack Obama shifted his attack to Republican policies affecting students and their parents as Mitt Romney sought to steer the focus of their campaign battle back to the economy.
In appearances in the swing states of Ohio and Nevada over the past two days, Obama accused Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, of wanting to cut aid to college students and money for local schools while extending tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.
“I got a question for Governor Romney: How many teachers jobs are worth another tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” Obama said today in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
With the Republican message knocked off stride by Senate candidate Todd Akin’s comments on rape and abortion, Romney returned to hitting Obama on the economy, saying a second term for the president would lead the U.S. down the path of Europe, strangled by a debt crisis and facing record unemployment.
“We don’t have to guess what the future looks like if we stay with the current president,” the former Massachusetts governor told a cheering crowd today at LeClaire Manufacturing, a family-owned company in Bettendorf, Iowa, that produces aluminum castings. “We can see what’s happening over in Europe.”
The economy remains the top issue in the presidential campaign, with U.S. unemployment at 8.3 percent and growth projected by the Congressional Budget Office at an annual rate of 2.25 percent in the second half of this year.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released yesterday showed a majority of those surveyed, 54 percent, said they disapproved of Obama’s handling of the economy. Still, the president held a four-percentage-point lead over Romney nationally, with 48 percent support from registered voters to the Republican’s 44 percent.
Obama may be buoyed by some economic data exceeding expectations, with retail sales increasing in July and employers adding 163,000 jobs, the most in five months. Industrial production and consumer confidence also rose, and a report today showed sales of existing homes climbed in July from an eight-month low.
Romney continued to hit Obama for a remark the president made in a July 13 speech that, “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.” Obama had just referred to what he called “this unbelievable American system” that, through tax dollars, provides school teachers and roads and bridges.
“President Obama, bless his heart, has tried to substitute government for free people, and it has not worked, and it’ll never work,” Romney said.
The stage from which Romney spoke was lined with people wearing dark blue T-shirts with white lettering in capital letters that said: “Government didn’t build my business, I did,” and “Built by us.”
Obama made his pitch on education this week in two states that have fared differently during the economic recovery. In Ohio, which has voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1964, the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July, the only state among 12 battlegrounds where it didn’t increase from the previous month, according to the Labor Department.
In Nevada, the recovery has been slowed by the housing crisis, with 61 percent of all mortgage properties having negative equity, according to real-estate data firm CoreLogic Inc. The jobless rate grew to 12 percent in July from 11.6 percent in June after declining or holding steady for three straight months.
Both candidates also are paying attention to fundraising.
Romney spent yesterday courting oil industry executives in Texas, seeking to raise as much as $7 million
At the Houstonian hotel, Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, Continental Resources Inc. founder Harold Hamm and Richard Kinder, chairman and CEO of energy pipeline and storage company Kinder Morgan Inc., sat on a dais leading a group of about 100 donors in a conversation designed to identify the best ways the next president could help the oil and gas industry.
Romney, who said he didn’t want to spell out his energy plans in front of the news media, promised the campaign would release details at an Aug. 23 event he headlines in Hobbs, New Mexico.
After leaving Nevada this afternoon, Obama is heading east to New York City for a rally and a fundraiser with National Basketball Association stars.
Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association championships, is co-hosting a dinner for 120 people who paid $20,000 each to attend. Two other events will give donors a chance to mingle with current and former NBA stars.