Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Obama Shifts the Topic From Medicare to Focus on Younger Voters - San Francisco Chronicle

(For more campaign news, see ELECT.)

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) -- After a week of assailing the Republican presidential ticket over its Medicare plans for older Americans, President Barack Obama shifted his attack to Republican policies for younger people.

He accused Mitt Romney of wanting to cut aid to college students while extending tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. Looking to connect with a key constituency in Ohio and Nevada, Obama spoke of his own struggles to pay back student loans and mocked Romney, the son of an automobile company executive, for suggesting that students borrow money from their parents to finance their education.

“Not everybody has parents that have the money to lend,” Obama said yesterday at Capital University outside of Columbus, Ohio. “That may be news to some folks.”

Sharpening his populist pitch, Obama said his presidential opponent would pull federal support from students looking to finance higher education through loans. Romney’s budget plan would cut aid to 10 million students and give tax breaks “weighted toward the wealthiest Americans” and to protect “corporate tax loopholes,” Obama said.

The president will push his education message again today, after spending the week making Medicare the focus of his attacks on Romney and his choice for vice president, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan. Yesterday, Obama mentioned Medicare in his first address in Ohio with a single line and not at all in his second speech in Nevada.

Wooing the Young

As Obama wooed young voters, Romney spent yesterday courting oil industry executives in Texas. The presumed Republican nominee could raise as much as $7 million at fundraisers in Houston and Midland.

At the Houstonian hotel, Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson, Continental Resources Inc. founder Harold Hamm and Richard Kinder, chairman and CEO of energy pipeline and storage company Kinder Morgan Inc., sat on a dais leading a group of about 100 donors in a conversation designed to identify the best ways the next president could help the oil and gas industry.

Romney, who said he didn’t want to spell out his energy plans in front of the news media, promised the campaign would release details at an Aug. 23 event in Hobbs, New Mexico.

Education Message

Obama is bringing his education message to two states that have fared differently during the economic recovery. In Ohio, which has voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1964, the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent in July, the only state among 12 battlegrounds where it didn’t increase last month, according to the Labor Department.

In Nevada, the recovery has been slowed by the housing crisis, with 61 percent of all mortgage properties having negative equity, according to real-estate data firm CoreLogic Inc. The jobless rate surged to 12 percent from 11.6 percent last month after declining or holding steady for three straight months.

Polls show the race for Ohio’s 18 electoral votes is close, with Obama leading Romney by less than 2 percentage points in the average of four surveys compiled by the website Real Clear Politics. In Nevada, with its six electoral votes, Obama leads by an average of 5 percentage points.

A Romney spokeswoman said the Republican’s economic proposals would help students by delivering rapid job growth. Romney has vowed to create 12 million jobs during the first term of his presidency.

Higher Costs

“Under this president, too many young Americans are suffering from higher college costs, more debt and a lack of good jobs when they graduate,” the spokeswoman, Amanda Henneberg, said in an e-mail. “Today’s policies are just more of the same from a president who hasn’t fixed the economy or kept his promises to the young people who supported him four years ago.”

Voters age 18 to 29 were a key constituency for Obama in the 2008 election, with a national exit poll showing he received 66 percent of their support.

Before his speech at Capital University, a private institution, he stopped by the student union at Ohio State University to talk with students.

“Young people especially, I am going to need your help,” Obama told the crowd in Columbus, adding that the campaign had staff and volunteers available to help them register to vote “before you leave today.”

NBA Players

The rally in Ohio was the first stop in a three-state trip. After Ohio, Obama headed west to Nevada before returning east to New York City for a rally and a fundraiser with National Basketball Association stars.

In Nevada, Obama delivered a nearly identical speech to the one he gave in Ohio.

“I don’t think it’s any news to you that higher education is getting harder and harder to afford,” Obama said at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno.

Today, he will speak at a high school outside of Las Vegas after posing for pictures with teachers.

--With assistance from Joe Sobczyk in Washington and Lisa Lerer in Midland, Texas. Editors: Jim Rubin, Michael Shepard

To contact the reporter on this story: Hans Nichols in Reno, Nevada, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at

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