At multiple rallies across Ohio Friday, President Obama boiled the final choice of the campaign down to one of trust and reliability.
“After four years as President, you know me,” he said in Hilliard, OH. “You may not agree with every decision I’ve made. You may be frustrated sometimes at the pace of change. But you know what I believe, you know where I stand, you know I tell the truth, and you know that I’ll fight for you and your families every single day, as hard as I know how.”
Obama assailed Romney’s honesty, pointing to his campaign’s recent ads in the state that inaccurately suggest Chrysler and GM are planning on shipping Ohio jobs to China.
“Everybody knows it’s not true,” he said. “The car companies themselves have told Governor Romney to knock it off. You don’t scare hardworking Americans just to scare up some votes. That’s not what being president is all about.”
The president emphasized his own consistency repeatedly as a mark of character, contrasting it with what he said was a deliberate attempt by Romney to evade responsibility for his actual positions.
“One of the things that’s important about electing a president is trust,” he said. “Is somebody going to say what they mean and mean what they say?
In a callback to the theme of “change” that animated his 2008 campaign, Obama did his best to undermine Romney’s own closing argument that he represented a clean break not only from the policies of the last four years but from the unpopular Bush administration that preceded him.
“In this campaign he’s tried as hard as he can to repackage these same policies and offer them up as change,” he said. “But we know what change looks like, and what the governor is offering ain’t it. Giving more power back to the biggest banks — that’s not change. Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy — that’s not change. “
He added: “And you know that I know what real change looks like, because I’ve fought for real change.”
In Lima Ohio, he said that he had “the scars to prove it.” This is another key theme heading into the final days: the notion that Obama is willing to make politically difficult decisions he believes are right in contrast with Romney’s calculated approach. The auto bailout, especially in Ohio, is example A, B, and C for this argument.
Tying together the bailout along with his decision to pursue health care reform, offer new education grants in the stimulus bill, and end the war in Iraq, he framed his record as a continuous battle of the middle class versus special interests.
“I ran because the voices of the American people — your voices — had been shut out of our democracy for way too long by lobbyists and special interests; politicians who will do whatever it takes to keep things just the way they are,” he said in Hilliard. ” And over the last four years, you’ve seen it — the status quo in Washington has fought us every step of the way.”
He said his opponents were betting on “cynicism” — specifically the notion that by stymying progress in Congress, Americans would grow frustrated enough to lose interest in politics or turn to other candidates.
“We’ve come too far to turn back now,” he said. “We’ve come too far to grow fainthearted. It’s time to keep pushing forward, to educate all our kids and train all our workers, create new jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, discover new sources of energy, broaden opportunity, grow our middle class, restore our democracy to make sure that no matter who you are or where you come from, you make it in America.”
(Photo Credit: Brett Marty)
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.