PHILADELPHIA -- Standing before a hulking statue of Benjamin Franklin, President Barack Obama accused his Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney of offering the same economic proposals as his Congressional counterparts did during the George W. Bush administration.
Speaking at his fifth of six fundraisers Tuesday, the president said it was “good to be among friends” including the founding father, before launching into an attack on what he said were the failed economic policies that Congressional Republicans tried once and that Romney wants to try again.
“It will be the same stuff, the same okey-doke, but you know what they do have, is they’ll have 500 billion dollars-worth of negative ads,” Obama warned the crowd of 500 in a cavernous foyer at the Franklin Institute here.
He added that the last time Republicans controlled the White House and Congress, they turned a budget surplus into a deficit through war spending, tax cuts for high-income earners and a new, unpaid-for prescription drug plan.
“We had baked into the cake structural deficits that were made even worse by a financial crisis,” he said. “And so for these folks to suddenly get religion?” he continued, accusing Republicans of, as he had at earlier campaign events in Baltimore, “running up the tab and trying to pass off the bill to me.”
Touting what he said was his own strength on fiscal issues (while also linking himself to the leader who had that surplus), Obama noted, “the two presidents with the least growth in government spending in the modern era happened to be two Democrats named Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.”
Obama notably mentioned Clinton, who has recently made statements that veered off message, several times by name during his speech.
Before his three events with Philadelphia supporters, who paid between $250 and $40,000 to hear him speak, the president dropped by another section of the Franklin Institute where a group of 130 high school seniors were celebrating their graduation.
His brief statement to them may not have been out of place in a campaign appearance, as he reached out specifically to demographic groups he needs to do well with, including women.
“For the women who are here, a lot of you know that historically we haven’t had as many women in math and science and engineering fields.
So as you succeed, hopefully you’re going to go back and mentor some people, and encourage them to get involved in these fields as well. If you do that then I have extraordinary optimism for the future."
While a cash hub for the president, Philadelphia is not part of the state that his campaign is worried about losing, as Obama won Philadelphia County by 83 percent in 2008.
But the state of Pennsylvania, which hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate for the last five elections, is being treated as a battleground by both campaigns.
“The fact they’ve spent over $4 million in television by the end of May is pretty significant,” said Pennsylvania Republican party chairman Rob Gleason on a conference call with reporters.
A Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylvania voters released Tuesday had numbers both camps could tout, as it showed Obama with a 46-40 lead among Pennsylvania voters (down two points from last month) but Romney with higher ratings on the economy, 49-41 percent.
But Republicans on Tuesday tried to emphasize Pennsylvania’s make-or-break status for Obama.
“President Obama cannot be re-elected without carrying Pennsylvania so he has an awful lot at stake,” Gleason said.