Washington:President Barack Obama is trying to keep the pressure on rival Mitt Romney, opening two days of campaigning in Florida in search of military veterans, seniors and unaligned voters in the state’s crucial midsection.
Obama was holding events on Thursday in Jacksonville and West Palm Beach as his campaign urges Romney to release more years of his tax returns and keeps a sharp focus on the former Massachusetts governor’s tenure as the head of a private equity firm.
Romney on Wednesday accused Obama of looking out for number one instead of fixing the plight of America’s unemployed, as he bashed his rival for not convening his jobs council for six months.
In the midst of a campaign slathered with personal attacks, Romney sought to refocus the debate from the controversy over his finances to a nagging Obama weakness: the commander-in-chief’s continuing inability to bring the unemployment rate below 8.0 per cent.
“You would think the president would focus all of his energy and his passion on helping people get jobs,” Romney told supporters at a campaign stop in Bowling Green, in the crucial battleground state of Ohio.
“But you know what he’s been doing over the last six months? In the last six months, he has held 100 fundraisers,” he sneered.
“And guess how many meetings he’s had with his jobs council. None. Zero,” Romney added.
“His priority is not creating jobs for you. His priority is trying to keep his own job, and that’s why he’s going to lose it.”
Obama created his 26-member Presidential Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in January 2011, placing General Electric chief executive Jeffrey Immelt at its head.
The appointment was at that time interpreted as a bid to rally the business world after Democrats lost the 2010 mid-term congressional elections.
Questioned about Romney’s comments, White House spokesman Jay Carney said there was “no specific reason” why Obama had not recently convened the council, whose charge is to float ideas on how to boost jobs and American competitiveness.
“The president’s obviously got a lot on his plate,” Carney added.
“But he continues to solicit and receive advice from numerous folks outside the administration about the economy, about ideas that he can act on with Congress or administratively to help the economy grow and help it create jobs.”
The Obama campaign has also pointed out that he presented a jobs plan to Congress last September, based on proposals of Immelt’s council, but Republicans blocked it.
Campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith recalled a recent report by specialised periodical Tax Notes, which said Romney’s economic plan would create 800,000 jobs — overseas. Obama joked about the study on Monday while on the campaign trail in Ohio.
In their campaign rhetoric, both Obama and Romney have described the November 6 election as a choice between diametrically opposed visions for America.
Obama says he wants to give priority to the middle class and let Bush-era tax breaks expire for the wealthiest Americans.
Romney, a multimillionaire former businessman and investor, says he supports keeping the tax breaks for everyone and easing the regulatory constraints on firms which he argues have hampered the recovery following the 2008 economic crisis.
Florida is the largest and most coveted of the nation’s Election Day toss-up states, a place where Romney could severely damage Obama’s chances of winning re-election. Republicans are holding their national convention in Tampa in August in hopes of giving themselves an edge in the state.
Yet, if Obama can lock down Florida’s 29 electoral votes, it would be difficult for Romney to mount enough support elsewhere to capture the White House.
Polls have shown Obama and Romney in a dead heat in the state, which has struggled with an unemployment rate of 8.6 per cent, above the national average, and a still-recovering housing market.