President Barack Obama turned up the volume on his standard stump speech Thursday, telling a friendly Ohio audience “this November you can provide a mandate for the change we need now.”
The federal government is stalemated between two fundamentally different visions, Obama said. Republicans are “in favor of a ‘no-holds barred, government is the enemy, market is everything’ approach,” he declared in a long 54-minute speech to a mostly African-American audience at Cleveland’s Cuyahoga Community College.
But his approach, he said, offers government-directed ”investment” in education, research, infrastructure and “clean energy,” all of which would be funded by increased taxes on wealthy people.
“Now is the time to invest more in clean energy. … We have to become the global leader in renewable energy … [in] electric cars and energy-efficient buildings. … Let’s double-down on a clean energy industry that has never been so promising,” he said, despite the controversial failure of multiple green-tech companies, such as Solyndra.
Romney also offered listeners a choice in an Ohio speech given shortly before Obama’s early afternoon speech.
The choice, said Romney in an 18-minute speech, is between an Obama policy that “leads to chronic high unemployment, like in Europe, low wage-growth like Europe has … or we can return to the principles that made America [into] America.”
But Romney also portrayed the election as a referendum, saying that the Obama has wasted three years, and doesn’t deserve another term. (VIDEO: Obama predicts $1 billion in GOP attack ads saying ‘it’s all my fault’)
Obama has a strong incentive to portray the election as a choice between two rival futures, rather that a conventional referendum on the incumbent’s performance.
That’s because a choice-election shifts the electorate’s focus away from his dismal record of high unemployment, high deficits and high debts.
Obama offered nothing new in the much-touted speech, but instead repeated themes from his 2008 and 2012 stump speeches.
For example, he applauded welfare-state policies established by President’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, tried to emphasize national unity, and said the current recession was caused by GOP deregulation.
However, the current recession was prompted by ambitious federal regulation of the housing market. Obama supported those regulations even before he was elected to Illinois’ state Senate in 1996.
Obama tried to portray the November election as a choice between a planned society where experts help everyone in society, versus a 100-proof capitalist society that would supposedly “eliminate most regulations, cut taxes by trillions of dollars, strip down government to national security and few other functions.”
However, Obama’s stark contrast is overdrawn.
Many free market and libertarian advocates doubt Romney’s willingness to rollback regulations established by Obama or President George W. Bush.
Obama’s emphasis on GOP opposition to taxes, however, is more accurate, although he did downplay his ambitious tax-raising goals.
The GOP’s opposition to tax increases “is the biggest source of gridlock in Washington today, and the only thing that can break the stalemate is you,” Obama told his friendly audience.
In November, he said, “your vote will finally determine the path we take as a nation, not just tomorrow, but for years to come.”
“When you strip everything else away, that‘s what this election is really about. … Everything else is just noise, everything else is just a distraction,” Obama added.
Obama made most of his pitch with a level tone, and sought to boost his credibility by saying that his claims were based on reliable sources.
“This is not spin, this is not my opinion, these are facts. … That’s not my spin, that’s not my opinion, that what independent economic analysis says,” Obama said.