On Thursday, President Obama and Mitt Romney were both in the battleground state of Ohio, delivering dueling speeches on the most pressing issue facing American voters: The weak economy. The Obama camp billed the president's speech as a major address that would reframe the economic debate, which has not gone in Obama's favor over the past couple weeks. (On the heels of a grim unemployment report, Obama invited GOP attacks by declaring that the private sector is "doing fine.") Romney, for his part, appears eager to keep the spotlight on the economy, and his campaign underscored the dueling speeches by sending a Romney campaign bus to circle the site of Obama's speech and honk at the president's supporters. Here, five takeaways from the speech-off:
1. Romney blasted Obama's economic record
Romney slammed Obama for failing to foster a more robust recovery. "He's going to be a person of eloquence as he describes his plans for making the economy better," Romney said. "But don't forget — he's been president for three and a half years, and talk is cheap. Action speaks very loud."
2. Obama blamed the Bush-era GOP
The president "offered up a detailed rehash of the decade that preceded him taking office," arguing that Bush-era tax cuts and deregulation resulted in the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession, says Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo. Obama hardly mentioned President Bush by name, but "the speech represented his most focused argument that Republican policies devastated the country over the last decade." Obama's message was clear: If Romney is elected, he'll take America down that same road.
3. The president tore into Romney, too
Obama went after Romney aggressively, saying he had "not seen a single independent analysis that says my opponent's economic plan would actually reduce the deficit." Instead, Obama argued, Romney's plan favors the rich. The president even "went so far as to make his economic argument personal" by going after the multi-millionaire's wealth, says Reid J. Epstein at Politico. "I don't believe that giving someone like Mr. Romney another huge tax cut" is a good reason to slash spending on social programs, Obama said.
4. Obama also blamed intransigent Republicans in Congress
The president pointed his finger at "partisan politics in Washington," saying that's why we've seen little "progress in reviving the American economy," say Amy Gardner and Philip Rucker at The Washington Post. "What's holding us back is a stalemate in Washington between two fundamentally different views of which paths America should take," Obama said. He argued that the upcoming election was a chance for voters "to break that stalemate."
5. The president still has a steep hill to climb
No matter how he frames the debate, Obama has real problems with the "are you better off" question, say Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post. He can't convince people that things are better than they were four years ago, so he has to suggest "that the country is beginning to climb out of a deep hole and the only way to continue that ascent is to elect him." At the same time, he can't pretend the economy is moving in the right direction without looking "painfully out of touch to struggling middle- and lower-middle class voters," say Alexander Burns and John F. Harris at Politico. He has a tough balancing act ahead of him.