(SPRINGFIELD, Va.) — “Patriotism” was the word of the day on the presidential campaign trail, as President Obama and Mitt Romney — both in Virginia Thursday — sought to tie their economic plans to broader ideas about America’s place in the global milieu.
Romney seized on scheduled cuts to defense spending and a downward revision of the country’s economic growth, warning that the combination posed a “long-term threat to our military capability and to our national security.”
“Russia tried it for a while,” Romney told supporters in Springfield, Va., drawing a parallel with the final days of the Soviet regime, “and they couldn’t keep up. They, well, collapsed.”
The GDP grew at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the spring, the Commerce Department reported Thursday, down from its previous estimate of 1.7-percent growth.
“Russia at four percent, China at seven to eight percent,” Romney said. “We’re at 1.3 percent. This is unacceptable. This is not working.”
“I know what it takes to get us working,” he said. “This is a real challenge for us. And this is not just one quarter. This has been going on now for years. China’s growing much faster than we, Russia’s growing faster than we. Our economy needs to be reinvigorated.”
Romney also targeted the bipartisan-crafted “sequestration” deal, which would mandate $500 billion in defense and other federal spending cuts if Congress can’t settle on a more carefully crafted debt-reduction plan by Jan. 2, 2013.
Virginia would be especially hard hit if there’s no deal struck on Capitol Hill, with more than 136,000 jobs from major defense sites in the state likely to disappear in the absence of an agreement, according to George Mason University projections.
About three and a half hours to the south, in Virginia Beach, Obama, riding a recent surge in the polls, continued to hammer away at Romney on comments the Republican challenger made during a secretly recorded fundraiser in Florida.
In that video, Romney can be heard telling donors that nearly half the country — 47 percent — will never vote for him because they consider themselves “victims” dependent on the government and, by extension, Obama and his policies.
“It takes more than one party” to plot an economic recovery, the president said during Thursday’s remarks. “It can’t happen if you write off half the nation before you take office. In 2008, 47 percent of this country did not vote for me, but the night of the election I said to all those Americans, I said, ‘I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voice.’ And if we reclaim those values now, if we rally around a new economic patriotism together, we can rebuild this economy together.”
Obama first called for that “new economic patriotism” in a two-minute TV ad released Wednesday. Speaking straight to the camera, he warns voters that a President Romney will “double down on the same trickle-down policies that led to the [financial] crisis in the first place.”
There’s another new Obama spot out Thursday getting attention, but it doesn’t feature the president’s face, or voice, at all. Titled “My Job,” the 30-second ad is composed solely of audio from the infamous Romney fundraiser playing as the faces of anonymous U.S. workers and families flash across the screen.
Romney has sought to counter the blowback from the fundraiser comments with his own soft-lit appeal, telling voters in a new ad: “President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is, my policies will make things better for them.”
The candidates are in the stretch run now, with just 40 days until Americans hit the polls Nov. 6. Early voting started Thursday in Iowa.
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