A campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, responding to Obama's speech in Ohio, said, "While President Obama all but ignored his record over 3 1/2 years in office, the American people won't. This November, they will hold him accountable for his broken promises and ineffective leadership."
With his rhetoric, Obama belittled Romney and signaled he intends to campaign both against his challenger and the congressional Republicans who have opposed most of his signature legislation overwhelmingly, if not unanimously.
After a spirited campaign for the Republican nomination, Obama said, the GOP leadership picked someone "who has promised to rubber stamp" their agenda if he gets a chance.
Romney is a "patriotic American who has raised a wonderful family," and has been a successful businessman and governor, the president said. "But I think he has drawn the wrong lessons from that experience. He sincerely believes that if CEOs and investors like him make money the rest of us will automatically do well as well."
In addition to depicting Romney as a threat to the middle class, Obama also tried to blunt the impact of what is likely to be the Republicans' best campaign issue.
"The economy is still facing headwinds and it will take sustained persistent efforts, yours and mine, for America to fully recover," the president said. He noted that jobs are being created and urged his audience not to give in to what he predicted would be negative campaign commercials designed to "exploit frustrations."
"Over and over again they'll tell you that America is down and out and they'll tell you who to blame and ask if you're better off than the worst crisis in our lifetime," he said. "The real question ... is not just about how we're doing today but how we'll be doing tomorrow."
Scarcely more than a dozen states figure to be seriously contested in the fall, including the two where Obama was campaigning Saturday.
They include much of the nation's industrial belt, from Wisconsin to Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as Nevada, Colorado and, the president's campaign insists, Arizona; the latter three all have large Hispanic populations. Both campaigns also are focusing on Iowa, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and New Hampshire. Together, those states account for 157 electoral votes.
Barring a sudden crisis, foreign policy is expected to account for less voter interest than any presidential campaign since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Since taking office, Obama has made good on his pledge to end the war in Iraq, announced a timetable to phase out the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan by 2014 and given the order for a risky mission by special forces in which Osama bin Laden was killed in his hideout in Pakistan.
One recent poll showed the public trusts Obama over Romney by a margin of 53-36 on international affairs.
While the battleground states tend to be clustered geographically, the state-by-state impact of the recession and economic recovery varies.
In Ohio, for example unemployment was most recently measured at 7.6 percent, below the national average. It was higher, 9.1 percent and rising, when Obama took office, reaching 10.6 percent in the fall of 2009 before it began receding.
In Virginia, it was 5.6 percent in March, well below the national average. It was 6.6 percent in February 2009 and peaked in June of that year at 7.2.
In a measurement that shows an economy recovering, yet far from recovered, the Labor Department reported this month that 54 metropolitan areas had double-digit unemployment in March, down from 116 a year ago. By contrast, joblessness was below 7.0 percent in 109 areas, up from 62 a year earlier.
No matter the change, Romney attacks Obama's handling of the economy at every turn.
"If the last 3 1/2 years are his definition of forward, I'd have to see what backward looks like," he said late last week in Virginia.
The first lady, who accompanied the president during the day, has attended more than 50 fundraisers since his campaign filed formal candidacy papers with the Federal Election Commission 13 months ago.
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