President Barack Obama promoted "significant strides on a whole range of areas" his administration has made in an Orlando campaign speech Thursday, but said Washington's divisive politics are standing in the way.
"We can solve our problems. And we have made significant strides on a whole range of areas," he said. "But what’s standing in our way still is our politics. What’s standing in our way is folks in Washington with some uncompromising views."
Obama referred to proponents of “top-down economics” that he said “got us into this mess in the first place," alluding to the 2008 financial crisis.
He said that "Mr. Romney, (and) his friends in Congress" are for more tax cuts and fewer regulations.
“The idea is that somehow if we cut taxes for folks at the top and get rid of regulations, this will lead to more jobs and to more jobs for everybody," said Obama, who appeared in Winter Park, outside Orlando, to make up for an appearance he postponed last month after the shooting tragedy in Aurora, Colo.
He criticized his Republican rival Mitt Romney's economic plan, including a new large tax cut that he said would greatly benefit the wealthiest Americans.
"We do not need more tax cuts for folks who have done very, very well. We need more tax cuts for working Americans," he said.
Meanwhile, Obama is also launching a tough new tax-equality pitch in a TV ad against Romney's economic proposals. Romney hit back with a new spot timed to Obama's appearance in Florida and calling the president a "disappointment" for a statewide economic picture that has not improved under his watch.
The latest offensives come as Obama and Romney take their respective campaigns to three of the most contested states: Florida, Colorado and Virginia. It also comes as a bitterly divided Congress pushes toward summer vacation with votes that center on front-burner issues like taxes and spending, but which are mostly symbolic placeholders for November.
Obama touted 4.5 million jobs created in his administration, a slight uptick in the housing market, and the auto industry’s rebound. He framed the election as "a choice about two fundamentally different visions for America, two fundamentally different paths for our future.”
After his 25-minute speech in Orlando – which is in the middle of a Florida swath that separates the Republican-leaning north of the state and the Democratic-leaning south, in a perennial swing state – the Democratic incumbent was set to take his message to Leesburg, Va., in the nation's wealthiest county, near Washington, D.C.
The Obama ad, which will air in eight states, including the two the president was visiting Thursday, cites a report by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center that argues Romney has paid a lower proportion of his income in taxes than many people of lesser means. "He pays less, you pay more," the ad says.
Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney adviser called the report "a joke" and challenged its impartiality and methodology Thursday during a conference call with reporters.
Romney's response ad shows footage of Obama giving a speech in 2008 and lamenting the state of Florida's economy. The spot notes that Florida still suffers from high unemployment, record home foreclosures and more of the state's residents living in poverty. "Barack Obama: What a disappointment," the ad says.
Romney was headed to Colorado to appear with 10 Republican governors, including some mentioned as potential running mates, at an event near Aspen.
Romney's appearance with governors would not only create a show of force, but it also would underscore his own role as a former governor of Massachusetts.
Aides said Romney would announce plans Thursday to achieve energy independence by 2020 by boosting domestic production of natural gas, oil and coal. He also will release a new "presidential accountability scorecard" suggesting that Obama hasn't delivered on economic promises, Fehrnstrom said. He said it was "shameful" that the president hasn't done more to outline a policy agenda for his second term.
"We hear a lot of rhetoric from this president, but rhetoric does not create jobs," Fehrnstrom said.
At the same time, Romney has been slow to release specifics about his own plans. His advisers Thursday could not outline how he Romney would achieve his goals on tax reform and energy independence.
On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House cast partisan votes on tax measures that also underscored Washington's political stalemate. Led by the GOP, the House approved a universal extension of Bush-era tax cuts, just a week after the Democratic-controlled Senate voted in favor of Obama's plan for continuing current tax rates only for households earning less than $250,000 or for individuals under $200,000.
Obama began his Thursday afternoon appearance with a reference to his age, and circled back to that theme at the end.
“I’m going to be 51 on Saturday,” he said to cheers. “Fifty-one. Michelle says I look 50. So that’s not bad."
After the crowd sang "Happy birthday to you," he remarked, "Win in Florida wouldn’t be a bad birthday present."
Obama wrapped up by saying that his hair may be grayer than in 2008, and noted again that he is about to turn 51, but said his determination to fight for Americans and his faith in them is stronger than ever.
"I still believe in you," he told the crowd, before concluding with rhythmic rhetoric reminiscent of his South Florida campaign appearances. "And if you still believe in me, if you’re willing to stand with me, if you’re willing to organize with me, if you’re willing to make some phone calls for me, if you’re willing to register some voters for me, if you’re going out there and voting with me, I promise you we will finish what we started, and we will remind the world just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.”