President Barack Obama returned to the U.S. Midwest on Wednesday, making his case that Republican economic proposals would harm America's middle class. Obama and the leading Republican presidential hopeful, Mitt Romney, traded criticism of each other's economic policies.
Ohio, one of the places he visited Wednesday, is a politically-important state for the president as he seeks reelection. He reiterated key points in what has become a standard campaign speech.
At Lorain County Community College near Cleveland, Obama described a situation in which he said U.S. businesses have jobs available, but struggle to find qualified workers.
The president sat down with four unemployed workers, including a former U.S. Marine, who are undergoing retraining in the hope of finding new jobs.
Obama said that creating opportunities for the unemployed and ensuring fair play in the economy are at the heart of a major election year debate in coming months.
"Should we settle for an economy where a few people do really well and then a growing number are struggling to get by? Or do we build an economy where people like Duane and Andrea and David and Bronson, they've got a chance to get ahead, where there are ladders of opportunity, where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules?," he said.
Obama portrayed the presidential contest as a choice between "two competing visions." He said Republicans would extend or provide new tax breaks for the wealthy, while his proposals would grow the economy through fair play and help for the middle class.
"Instead of moderating their views even slightly, you now have Republicans in Washington, the ones running for president, proposing budgets that shower the wealthiest Americans with even more tax cuts, folks like me [who] don't need them," Obama said.
Not specifically mentioned was Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and Obama's likely opponent in this year's presidential election.
Romney delivered competing messages on Wednesday in telephone interviews with Ohio radio stations.
And in remarks in Charlotte, North Carolina, the site of the Democratic National Convention later this year, Romney accused Obama of failed economic policies.
"Even if you like Barack Obama, we can't afford Barack Obama. It's time to get someone that will get this economy going and put the American people back to work with good jobs and rising incomes," Romney said.
In Washington, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner from Ohio, said President Obama is spending more time campaigning than working with Republicans to help the economy.
"He spent the last six months campaigning from one end of the country to the other, instead of working with members of both [major] political parties [-- the Democrats and the Republicans -- ] here in Washington to address the serious challenges that our country faces," Boehner said.
President Obama concluded his one-day cross-country trip with remarks at campaign events in Michigan, a center for the U.S. automobile industry, which he has claimed credit for reviving. Repeating his criticism of Republican policies, Obama appealed to supporters to ensure his reelection in November and to help "finish what we started in 2008."