President Obama took his campaign to battleground New Hampshire Saturday, devoting a significant portion of a speech in Nashua to slamming Mitt Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts - the Granite State’s neighbor to the south.
Mr. Obama’s comments appeared to be an attempt to portray Mr. Romney – who has pledged to enact an across-the-board tax cut – as an enemy of the middle class, saying that as governor, he pushed through a tax cut benefiting the 278 wealthiest families in the state while raising a host of fees on the rest of the commonwealth.
“There were higher fees to become a barber,” Mr. Obama said. “Higher fees to become a nurse. There were higher fees for gas. There were higher fees for milk. There were higher fees for blind people who needed to get a certificate that they were blind.”
“He raised fees to get a birth certificate – which would have been expensive for me,” the president quipped. “He raised fees for marriage certificates and for funeral homes, so there were literally cradle-to-grave tax hikes and fees.”
Mr. Obama also said that when Mr. Romney left office, there were just three states in the country that had created fewer jobs than Massachusetts and that the state ranked 48th in small business creation during his tenure, noting that in both cases, one of the states was Louisiana - which had been slammed by Hurricane Katrina.
Mr. Obama hit on familiar campaign themes as well, vowing to protect Medicare from being turned into a voucher system and that women - not politicians - should make their own health care decisions.
His campaign also moved on Saturday to paint Mr. Romney as an overt partisan, with Mr. Obama giving interviews Friday pledging bipartisanship in a second term - going as far as telling radio host Michael Smerconish he would “wash John Boehner’s car” and “walk Mitch McConnell’s dog” to get a bipartisan deal done to fix the country’s debt and deficit problems.
In Pensacola, Fla., meanwhile, Mr. Romney also pledged to work across party lines if elected - as he did in Massachusetts with a legislature that was overwhelmingly Democratic.
Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith, though, said voters shouldn’t buy it.
“Over the last 6 years he’s been running for president, he hasn’t stood up once to the most extreme voices in the Republican Party – in fact, he catered to them,” Ms. Smith said. “Just last week, he was even too weak to take down an ad endorsing a right wing Senate candidate who said it’s God’s will if a woman gets pregnant as a result of a rape…Mitt Romney’s empty promises of bipartisanship might sound nice, but they’re not to be trusted.”
Meanwhile, Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said Mr. Obama’s “desperate attacks” were “laughable.”
“As governor, Mitt Romney worked with Democrats to close a $3 billion deficit, balance four budgets while cutting taxes 19 times, create tens of thousands of new jobs and lower the Massachusetts unemployment rate to 4.7%,” he said. “President Obama is the only candidate in this race who has raised taxes on America’s middle class. As president, Mitt Romney will bring real change to Washington. His pro-growth agenda will strengthen the middle class, add 12 million new jobs and finally deliver a real recovery.”
Mr. Obama closed his address with a fiery plea to the crowd, even finishing by slapping the side of his podium three times.
“If you give me your vote, I promise you, you will always have a president who hears your voices, who will fight for your families, who will spend every waking moment thinking about how to make your lives a little bit better,” he said.
New Hampshire, I still believe in you,” Mr. Obama continued, his voice growing hoarse. “I need you to keep believing in me and if you’re willing to work with me, and roll up your sleeves with me, knock on some doors with me, make some phone calls for me, we’ll win Hillsborough County again, we’ll win New Hampshire again, we’ll finish what we started, and we’ll remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on earth.”
Mr. Romney is scheduled to campaign in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Both sides’ continued focus on the toss-up state, which counts for just four electoral votes, underscores the closeness of this year’s election – as Mr. Obama intimated to a group of about 60 people gathered at the office of Teamsters local 633 in Manchester earlier in the day.
“New Hampshire is gonna be very important…we don’t know how this thing is gonna play out,” Mr. Obama said, according to a pool report. [T]hese 4 electoral votes right here could make the difference.”