(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — On the eve of the 2008 election, candidate Barack Obama made an 11th hour appeal to voters in Jacksonville, Fla., by slamming his opponent as out-of-touch on the economy.
“John McCain just doesn’t get it,” Obama said at the time. “John McCain actually came here, to Veterans’ Memorial Arena, and repeated something he’s said at least 16 times on this campaign. He said — and I quote — ‘the fundamentals of our economy are strong.’”
McCain’s assessment, Obama said, was “fundamentally wrong.”
Now, as President Obama embarks on a two-day swing through Florida in pursuit of a second term, the tables are turned.
Obama is the one arguing that the fundamentals of the economy are on the right track, while Republican rival Mitt Romney says the anemic recovery from recession proves Obama wrong.
“President Obama has demonstrated that he ‘fundamentally’ doesn’t understand how the economy works and that he doesn’t believe in our free market system,” said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams. “After three and half disappointing years in office, President Obama has turned out to be nothing more than an economic lightweight who is incapable of delivering on the empty promises made by candidate Obama in 2008.”
While the economy has been adding jobs for more than two years, unemployment lingers above 8 percent nationwide — 8.6 percent in Florida — and monthly private sector job growth has slowed through the first half of 2012. Amid stagnant wages and home prices, consumer confidence is now at its lowest level this year.
As he stumps across the Sunshine State this week, Obama likely won’t dwell on those fundamental indicators of the economy. But he will emphasize the fundamental differences with Romney, aides say.
“President Obama and Mitt Romney have fundamentally different approaches to moving the country forward,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “And there is no question that Mitt Romney’s plan to voucherize Medicare, give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and let the housing market hit bottom is fundamentally wrong for Florida families.”
Over the next two days, Obama will focus on Romney’s plan to overhaul Medicare, warning Florida’s 3.4 million seniors that receive benefits through the program that putting a Republican in the White House would “end Medicare as we know it.”
“Seniors would likely have to pay thousands of dollars more out of pocket, on average, for their medical care,” said Democratic National Committee chair and Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz Wednesday in previewing the president’s message. “I think shredding the social safety net, shredding that health care safety net for seniors is outrageous.”
On stops in Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Ft. Myers and Orlando, the president will continue to draw contrasts with Romney on taxes, immigration, education and health care, the Obama campaign said.
Florida Republicans said they welcomed the contrast and said they expect to be highlighting the same.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Eric Bradner, Dana Bash and MJ Lee, CNN
Eric Bradner, CNN
Sophie Tatum, CNN