President Obama offered his vision for America's future in Cleveland, and he wiped the floor with Romney by defining him as a man with no plan, but to make himself and his rich friends even richer.
Obama began his speech in Cleveland with a self-depreciating joke about his private sector gaffe, then moved on to stressing the importance of the economy in this election. The president said the country is being held back by the stalemate in Washington over the future direction of the country, and this election is the voters' chance to break that stalemate.
The president later called out the Bush tax cuts by saying we were told that those tax cuts would create growth and jobs. He then highlighted how the wealthy prospered under Bush, but that wealth never "trickled down" to the middle class. Obama spoke about the fact that he has created in a little more than two years more jobs than Bush created in the previous seven. He also contrasted America's growth with the struggles of Europe, and not coincidentally many of those nations followed the austerity path that Mitt Romney and the Republican Party is advocating as the answer. Obama said the economy won't truly be healthy until we reverse the erosion of middle class jobs and income.
The president said that the debate in this election is about, "How we grow faster. How we create more jobs, and how we pay down more debt." Obama said Romney believes deeply in the Bush theory that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down. The president said that Romney and the Republicans promise to roll back regulations on banks and polluters, and offer 5 trillion more in tax cuts on top of the Bush tax cuts.
President Obama laid out what would happen if the Republicans cut a trillion dollars from across the budget. Obama called out Romney's tax code reform as taking away tax cuts for middle class in order to pay for their new $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy. The president said that Romney would have to cut even more to close the gap in the deficit caused by the Bush tax cuts.
Obama told people who are thinking about voting for Romney that if they want to give the policies of the last decade another shot, they should vote for Romney and his Republican allies in Congress. He said, "If you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, you should vote for Mr. Romney. You should vote for his allies in Congress. You should take them at their word that they will take America down this path and Mr. Romney is qualified to take America down this path. No, he is! I’m giving you an honest presentation of what he’s proposing. I’m looking forward to the press following up and making sure you know I am not exaggerating."
The president pointed out that these polices didn't work the last time we tried them, and he asked why would we jeopardize our future by trying them again? Obama laid out his vision for American innovation, education, energy, and a tax plan that promotes fairness and makes the wealthy pay their fair share. Obama said that his vision for a second term as president will be based around his belief that if we do those things more companies will start here, stay here, hire here, and more Americans will be able to find middle class jobs.
His supporters rejoiced as Obama talked about his reducing taxes on the middle class by 36%, adopted fewer regulations than George W. Bush, cutting spending and reducing the deficit. Obama used his record to debunk the right wing meme that he is a big government socialist.
The president also made this point: President Obama has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times over the course of his term.
The president discussed Romney's rejection of a shared vision of prosperity and Obama promised to continue this vision into the future as president. He also promoted the Dream Act and contrasted himself with Romney's hard line immigration stance. Obama discussed renewable energy. The president called for an end to subsidies for Big Oil. President Obama called for more infrastructure spending and the rebuilding of America.
Near the close of his speech Obama said, "I’ll take a step further, I’ll ask you to vote for anyone else, whether they are Democrats, Republicans or Independents, who share your view about how America should grow. I will work with anyone from any party who believes we are in this together. Who believes we rise and fall together, because I believe there are a lot of Republicans out there who may not agree with all of my policies, but still believe in a balanced approach to economic growth, and who remember the lessons of our history, and who don’t like the direction their leaders are taking them."
The president concluded his remarks, "It can be done and we will be stronger for it, and what is lacking is not the capacity to meet our challenges; what is lacking is our politics and that is entirely within your power to solve. This November, you can remind the world how a growing economy is built not from the top down, but from a growing, thriving, middle class. This November, you can remind the world how it is that we traveled this far as a country, not by telling everybody to fend for themselves, but by coming together as one American family, all of us pitching in, all of us pulling our own weight. This November you can provide a mandate for the change we need right now, we can move this nation forward, and you can remind the world why the United States is the greatest country on Earth."
The president made a compelling case for what this election is really about. He painted Mitt Romney as an even worse version of George W. Bush, and he delivered something that Romney hasn't. Barack Obama offered a vision for the future. This is going to be Romney's problem from now until November.
The Republican strategy of Obama bashing will only get them so far. It will get them a close election in November, but only one candidate has a vision for the future. Mitt Romney's vision is to return America back to the era of George W. Bush. One of the themes that Obama touched on over and over again was Romney's plan to slash taxes on the wealthy.
Obama said that giving someone like Romney another big tax cut is not worth ending our nation's basic guarantee to the elderly, the sick, and the people who are looking for work. The President discussed the growing income inequality. He said that Romney and the Republicans won't make the wealthy pay even a nickel more in taxes.
The president's message was not only powerful, but it had a populist tone that will be popular with voters. Obama framed the election as a debate on how to grow the economy. Given Obama's superior communication skills and personality, no one should be surprised if voters end up going to the polls basing their vote not on an Obama referendum, but asking themselves which economic plan will help America grow the fastest.
If this is the question, then the name Barack Obama will be the answer.