President Obama re-emerged on Thursday in Green Bay, Wisconsin after three days dedicated to Hurricane Sandy with a spirited and revamped stump speech that served as his closing argument. He sought to reclaim the mantle of change that served him so well in 2008 and blasted Mitt Romney’s policies as more of the same.
Obama didn’t hold back on criticizing Romney, but he dropped the “Romnesia” refrain he has used for the past two weeks and instead sought to recapture the notion that his challenger’s plans are the extreme policies of the George W. Bush years. Romney, Obama said, has been using his “talents as a salesman” to sell the country old policies repackaged as new ones.
“He’s saying he’s the candidate of change,” Obama said. “Well let me tell you, Wisconsin, we know what change looks like, and what the governor’s offering sure ain’t change.”
Obama ticked off some of Romney’s faux-change policies.
“Giving power back to the biggest banks isn’t change,” Obama said. “Leaving millions without health insurance isn’t change.”
Obama’s message also came with one his most blistering attacks on Republican obstructionism that the president has offered on the trail. Obama cast his own policies as change, but argued that they’ve bumped up against obstruction in Washington. “I know what change looks like because I fought for it,” he said.
But, he went on: “The protectors of the status quo are a powerful force in Washington. And over the last four years, every time we’ve tried to make a change, they’ve fought back with everything they’ve got.”
Obama’s populist tone was notable throughout the speech but returned into the subject in earnest at the end of the speech, when Obama offered himself up as a “champion” of everyday Americans rather than the wealthy.
“See, the folks at the very top in this country don’t need another champion in Washington,” Obama said. ”They’ll always have a seat at the table.”
Instead, Obama named small restaurant owners, cooks, autoworkers, teachers and kids. “They need a champion,” the president said.
Obama ended on another 2008 theme: Hope. Republicans, he said, were practicing a politics of “cynicism,” believing that gridlock in Washington would cause voters to turn against him. But Obama ended by quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“In the strength of great hope we must shoulder our common load,” Obama said, quoting the former president. “That’s the strength we need today. That’s the hope I’m asking you to share.”
Pema Levy is a News Writer at TPM covering the 2012 election. Before coming to TPM, Pema was an assistant editor at The American Prospect where she wrote about politics and the economy.