President Barack Obama lambasted presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney on a range of issues including his economic policies, and defended his own record in office as he launched his campaign for a new term by holding public rallies in Ohio and Virginia Saturday.
Romney and his "friends in Congress think the same bad ideas will lead to a different result or they're just hoping you won't remember what happened the last time you tried it their way," Obama told an audience of about 10,000 people at a rally held at Ohio State University in Columbus Saturday afternoon.
The election is still six months away, but national polls show the president and the likely Republican nominee virtually deadlocked.
"Governor Romney… doesn't seem to understand that maximizing profits by whatever means necessary -- whether through layoffs or outsourcing or tax avoidance or union-busting -- might not always be good for the average American or for the American economy," Obama said.
The president reminded the crowd that he won in that state in 2008. "Well, Ohio, I'm here to say that we were there, we remember, and we are not going back. We are moving this country forward."
Many of Obama's supporters carried placards reading "Forward," his slogan for the 2012 race, at both rallies. The rally in Virginia was held at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond Saturday night.
A day earlier, Romney had criticized Obama's handling of economy. "This is a sad time in America when people who want work can't find jobs," he was quoted as saying during a visit to Sauereisen in the Pittsburgh area, Pa, Friday, soon after the Labor Department's report showed the unemployment rate had dropped to 8.1 percent in April. Romney said joblessness was falling because "340,000 people stopped looking for jobs."
Romney says he understands the economy as he had a successful career as a businessman, and can find ways to stimulate job creation. But the president called him a "rubber stamp" for conservative Republicans in Congress in his Saturday's address in Ohio.
"This time, they want to give banks and insurance companies even more power to do as they please," Obama said. "And now, after a long and spirited primary, Republicans in Congress have found a nominee for president who has promised to rubber-stamp this agenda if he gets the chance." He suggested this is why Romney wanted to "spend trillions more on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans."
The president said government could not be expected to solve all problems. "I learned from my mom that no education policy can take the place of a parent's love and affection," he said. "As a young man, I worked with a group of Catholic churches who taught me that no poverty program can make as much of a difference as the kindness and commitment of a caring soul. Not every regulation is smart. Not every tax dollar is spent wisely. Not every person can be helped who refuses to help themselves."
Obama added, however, that that cannot be an excuse to tell the vast majority of hardworking Americans, "You're on your own." "That unless you're lucky enough to have parents who can lend you money, you may not be able to go to college… That's not how we built America. That's not who we are. We built this country together."
The president also sought to highlight what he projected as his achievements. "For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat. And by 2014, the war in Afghanistan will be over."
Responding to Romney's criticism that his campaign harps on "hype and blame," Obama told the audience, "When people ask you what this election is about, you tell them it is still about hope. You tell them it is still about change."
A Romney campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, responded to Obama's speech. "While President Obama all but ignored his record over 3 1/2 years in office, the American people won't," The Associated Press quoted him as saying. "This November, they will hold him accountable for his broken promises and ineffective leadership."