Rep. Paul Ryan, launching a pre-emptive strike ahead of former President Bill Clinton's address to the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday, said President Obama is no Clinton.
Campaigning outside Des Moines, Iowa, Mr. Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, said not even Mr. Clinton can cover up Mr. Obama's poor economic performance.
"My guess is, we'll get a great rendition of how good things were in the 1990s, but we're not going to hear much about how things have been in the last four years," Mr. Ryan, of Wisconsin, said.
With GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney holed up in Vermont prepping for his October debates with Mr. Obama, Mr. Ryan has hit the campaign trail, where he has taken on the attack-dog role and looked to take some wind out of the president's sails as Mr. Obama prepares to accept his party's nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
At stop after stop, and in interview after interview, Mr. Ryan, who is House Budget Committee chairman, has taken a page out of the Ronald Reagan playbook from his 1980 race against President Jimmy Carter, urging voters to ask themselves whether they are better off today than they were when Mr. Obama took office in 2009.
"We're going to hear a lot of things in Charlotte, but we're not going to hear a convincing argument that we are better off than we were four years ago," Mr. Ryan said on Wednesday.
In an effort to reach out to disgruntled, working-class, white Democrats, as well as independents, the Romney camp also has done something that few Republicans would have considered doing in the 1990s: praised the Clinton presidency.
On more than one occasion, Mr. Romney has touted Mr. Clinton's declaration from the 1996 State of the Union address that the "era of big government is over" as proof that Mr. Obama's economic approach is to the left of his Democratic predecessor.
"President Obama tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas, along with transparency and bipartisanship. It's enough to make you wonder if maybe it was a personal beef with the Clintons, but really it runs much deeper," Mr. Romney said at a campaign stop in May.
Many conservatives, though, have pointed out that the Clinton statement proved to be the exception, rather than the rule, of his presidency, and the era of big government came roaring back before he left office.
Still, the Romney camp continues to draw distinctions between the economic performances of Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton — seizing on monthly labor reports that show stagnant job growth and the news this week that the national debt crossed the $16 trillion mark.
"When it comes to the state of the economy, President Obama just can't match President Clinton," Amanda Henneberg, Romney campaign spokeswoman said. "Just this week, gas prices set a new record, the national debt topped $16 trillion, manufacturing slowed, and the number of Americans on food stamps hit a record high."
Mr. Ryan also continued to draw contrasts between the 44th and 42nd presidents on Wednesday, repeating a claim debunked by fact checkers that Mr. Obama wants to roll back the welfare reform that Mr. Clinton signed into law in 1996.
He also argued that Mr. Clinton worked with congressional Republicans to carve out budgets that reduced spending, while Mr. Obama has demagogued the GOP and presided over "a gusher of new spending."
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