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In Ohio, Obama Calls For 'Shared Vision' On Economy


President Obama's Ohio speech yesterday was designed to draw a contrast between his economic vision and Mitt Romney's. It was also meant to argue that the state of the economy doesn't hand his rival the keys to the White House.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: As initial unemployment claims ticked up again this week, President Obama said he's reminded every day just how tough things still are for many Americans. But he also expressed confidence that by working together, those challenges can be overcome.


HORSLEY: Mr. Obama says Romney's economic plan to cut taxes and roll back regulation might be good for the wealthiest Americans, but not for everyone else. After all, he says, the same formula was tried in the Bush administration and produced only anemic job growth, widening income disparity and a yawning budget deficit.


HORSLEY: In contrast, Mr. Obama says, his own plan would cut the deficit, while continuing to invest in education, clean energy and public works projects, paid for in part with higher taxes on the rich.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Four more years. Four more years.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama found a friendly audience yesterday at a community college in Cleveland, a reliably Democratic corner of this swing state where a boom in energy and manufacturing has helped push the unemployment rate down below 7 percent. The local chamber of commerce boasts of nearly $10 billion worth of private investment in the region. Jackie Fisher, who was in the audience for Mr. Obama's speech yesterday, has noticed the improvement.

JACKIE FISHER: It's doing a little better. There's construction jobs going on here. There's auto industry jobs picking up. By the way, Mr. Obama pushed to save the auto industry and Romney said: Who cares? Let General Motors close up. That had been a million people down the tube.

HORSLEY: Irma McQueen, whose father worked for General Motors, also credits the president for the economic improvement in Cleveland, though she says he hasn't had much cooperation.

IRMA MCQUEEN: I think the Republicans, some of them will always - whatever he says, they will say the opposite, just because of who he is.

HORSLEY: Indeed, Mr. Obama says while Republicans and Democrats have always had their differences over the appropriate role for government, for decades after World War II, there was broad consensus, an air of compromise that allowed Eisenhower to launch the interstate highway system, Nixon to found the EPA and Reagan to raise taxes to restrain the growing deficit of his era. Today, Mr. Obama says neither Romney nor Republicans in Congress will have any of that.


HORSLEY: Mr. Obama blames GOP intransigents for blocking a grand bargain on the deficit, as well as most short-term measures he's proposed to encourage job growth.


HORSLEY: The implicit message behind Mr. Obama's speech is that tepid economic recovery is not so much the fault of his policies, but Republican foot-dragging that's kept those policies bottled up in Congress. Whether voters in Ohio and elsewhere buy that argument could well determine the president's fate in November. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.