WASHINGTON — Republicans have been building their case against the "failed presidency" of Barack Obama for nearly four years and this week's convention is prime time for making the charges stick.
They'll assail Obama on a multitude of fronts large and small during the Republican National Convention in hopes of reaching the widest swath of voters. But the biggest complaints are being repeated over and over to drive them home as the race to Nov. 6 takes off in earnest.
A look at the main arguments the GOP is laying out against Obama in Florida this week, and the Democrats' comebacks:
RECKLESSLY ADDED TO THE NATIONAL DEBT
The convention comes complete with visual aids to drive home the Republicans' message about the nation's debt, currently about $15.9 trillion and growing. As delegates count down to nominee Mitt Romney's speech Thursday night, two "debt clocks" ticks higher. Party Chairman Reince Priebus says they were installed "to remind America of Obama's fiscal recklessness."
This year's budget deficit is expected to top $1 trillion for the fourth straight year. Republicans say that not only has Obama made the problem worse with billions in stimulus spending, he's also failed to provide the leadership necessary for budget cutting.
Romney hasn't put forward a concrete plan for reducing the deficit, either. As president, his efforts to do so would be complicated by his promises to lower income tax rates across the board, increase military spending and protect Social Security and Medicare benefits for current retirees. Romney has said he would use tax changes and deep, wide-ranging spending cuts, but hasn't given any details. Whatever cuts he has in mind, getting them through Congress would be tough.
FAILED TO BRING BACK JOBS
Republicans say Obama has presided over a devastatingly slow recovery from the Great Recession, pointing to painfully sluggish job growth as Exhibit A. The unemployment rate hovers above 8 percent, and that doesn't count Americans forced to settle for work that doesn't pay enough to cover their bills. College graduates are having trouble finding jobs; young people without degrees have it even worse. Republicans point to Obama's declaration that "the private sector is doing fine" to argue that he doesn't understand the depths of people's despair.
"Our economy is stagnant," says former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, chairman of the convention's rules committee. "Our vitality has been sapped."
The White House says that "doing fine" quote was taken out of context, from a speech in which Obama was comparing layoffs of teachers, police officers and other government workers to hiring among private businesses. And Obama argues that his stimulus and other efforts rescued the economy from what could have snowballed into a full-scale depression.
WANTS TO HAND OUT MORE WELFARE
The Obama administration decided to allow states to ask permission to bypass some federal welfare rules; Republicans say that ignores requirements that states try to put welfare recipients to work. Cash assistance to the poor is mainly conditioned on work.
The Obama administration says it doesn't want to waive work requirements, just to give states the chance to get out from under some federal administrative rules, including those that tie up state caseworkers who could be serving clients. The administration said it would only approve those waivers that would move more people from welfare to work.
'YOU DIDN'T BUILD THAT'
Republicans say Obama's mindset leans to big government and is suspicious of private enterprise. They've gleefully glommed onto a speech in which Obama told entrepreneurs who have successful companies that they "didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
Tuesday's convention theme — "We built it" — emphasizes this line of attack.
To reinforce the message, his rivals also point to Obama's insistence on higher income taxes for the wealthy — whom the Republicans call "job creators"— and increased regulation, such as environmental rules that slow oil and gas production. "Republicans believe American greatness comes from the American people — not from the federal government," Priebus says.
Obama's remarks are being taken out of context. In the full quote, Obama refers to the government-influenced factors that help businesses and individuals succeed, such as good teachers and roads and the Internet. Obama wasn't attacking inventers and small business people, although his speech does show key differences in the way the Republicans and Democrats view government.
IS CUTTING MEDICARE
Republicans attack Obama for cutting Medicare spending by $716 billion to expand health care entitlements for younger people. They say the Romney-Ryan ticket would preserve and protect Medicare, as well as Social Security, for current retirees and future generations. They also argue that Obama has failed to lead lawmakers toward finding a plan to save Medicare and Social Security as the aging U.S. population puts unsustainable pressure on them.
Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, built his reputation as a fiscal conservative on a budget plan that would overhaul the Medicare program and introduce a voucher-like plan that future retirees could use to buy private health insurance. Ryan's plan includes the Obama cuts, and the Congressional Budget Office says it would grow future Medicare spending at a much slower rate than under current law, but may also saddle beneficiaries with greater out-of-pocket costs.
'OBAMACARE' SHOULD BE REPEALED
Obama's health care law is government overreach that smacks of socialism, Republicans insist. They say it will raise taxes on the middle class, harm small businesses and lead to elimination of jobs. Their rallying cry is "repeal and replace Obamacare."
The counterargument:1 comment on this story
Some of the health care law's tax increases, such as reducing tax deductions for medical expenses, will fall on the middle class. But the tax increases fall most heavily on upper-income people, health insurance companies, drug makers and medical device manufacturers. The Congressional Budget Office did predict that fewer people would work because of the law, but its analysis found that's mostly because of people choosing to retire or work less because they will be able to get health insurance more easily outside of full-time jobs.
The health care law will help millions of people who can't get coverage because they've been sick or self-employed or they can't afford it.
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