HAMPTON, Va. — President Obama capitalized Friday on his ongoing fight with Congress over expiring tax cuts to light a fire under Virginia voters here who were so critical to his 2008 election fight and who he needs once again to win this November.
Speaking in Hampton for the second time in less than a year, Obama insisted Virginia voters are facing competing visions for the next four years and painted his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, as a wealthy man who planned to create jobs by cutting taxes for the rich. He called for Congress to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to anyone making less than $250,000.
“This is the same House of Representatives that have now voted 33 times to repeal health care even though they know they can't pass it,” Obama told 1,500 people packed into a high school gymnasium, his second of three official stops Friday during a two-day swing through the battleground state. “They could take one vote to make sure your taxes don’t go up, and they haven't done that yet.”
(PHOTO GALLERY: See more photos from the Obama event)
Obama also focused on his own accomplishments more than he has in the past. While he was content in the opening months of the campaign to depict Romney as the second-coming of President George W. Bush, he and other Democratic speakers emphasized his own accomplishments over the past three years.
Indeed, the largest applause of the day from the crowd in military-centric Hampton Roads area came after Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner told the crowd to remember, “it was this commander in chief, that took out the leadership of al-Qaeda.” Mention of the Affordable Care Act, too, drew resounding applause, a clear sign these were strong Obama supporters.
Warner, a former governor who remains the most popular statewide office holder in Virginia, was overtly complementary of the president, much to the crowds delight, even though he has in the past criticized Obama’s attacks on Romney’s tenure at the investment firm Bain Capital.
Obama, however, continued that assault Friday, insisting Romney led efforts to outsource jobs while at the helm of Bain, a venture capital firm. After a visit to Virginia Beach, Obama told WJLA that Romney “is going to have to answer those questions” about when he left his post at Bain.
During an appearance on Fox News, Romney said the remarks were “beneath the dignity of [Obama’s] office.”
“You just had very bad news on the economic front, with now 41 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent,” Romney said. “And what does the president do? He says he is going to raise taxes on people. He is trying to gut welfare reform as we know it. And he launches attacks of this nature.”
Obama became the first Democrat in nearly a half century to win the once reliably red Virginia, but the state has since shifted back toward Republicans. Friday and Saturday’s five-city tour through the state was Obama grandest attempt yet to reenergize those voters heading into the summer organizing months of his campaign. On Saturday, he'll stop in Glen Allen outside Richmond and Clinton in Northern Virginia.
“He said everything that everybody wants to hear to fire us up,” Deidra Nichols of Newport News said after watching Obama.