JACKSONVILLE -- President Barack Obama returned Thursday to the Florida city he used in 2008 to draw a stark contrast to his past Republican rival, reviving the same themes of an embattled middle class against his new opponent Mitt Romney.
In 2008, after John McCain memorably told a Jacksonville audience that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong,” Obama drew 9,000 supporters to Veteran’s Memorial Arena on the eve of his election and promised change and hope.
This time, Obama told a sellout crowd estimated at 3,000 that the Prime Osborn Convention Center that Wall Street’s “culture of anything goes” and the “worst economic crisis since the Great Depression” are among the factors that continue to threaten the future of the middle class.
“We are here today because we recognize that this basic bargain, this essence of who we are — the simple American Dream — is at risk like never before,’’ he said. “What’s standing in our way is not technical solutions …What’s standing in our way is our politics.’’
But Obama steered clear of attacks on Romney’s business record and instead tailored his message toward seniors and the middle class on the first day of a two-day campaign swing in the nation's biggest battleground state. He stops in Fort Myers and Orlando on Friday.
The president warned that Romney’s proposal to repackage Medicare as a fixed benefit is a “voucher” system “will end Medicare as we know it” as it forces seniors to purchase private health insurance.
He said his health care reforms have helped seniors receive discounted prescription drugs and get access to free preventive care.
Republicans countered with their own claim that Obama’s policies will dramatically recast Medicare and noted a Congressional Budget Office report that said payments under Obama’s Affordable Care Act will reduce benefits in the Medicare program by $507 billion and shrink enrollment by 50 percent.
Hours later, when he addressed about 675 people at the Century Village retirement community in West Palm Beach, Obama received only mild applause for touting his health care planned — the one Republicans dubbed ObamaCare.
He attacked Romney for supporting tax cuts for the wealthy while supporting future Medicare reductions.
"It’s wrong to ask you to pay more for Medicare so that people who are doing well right now get even more,” Obama said, claiming that Romney could wind up raising taxes on the middle class — something the Romney camp denies.
“"I don’t believe you can reduce the deficit without asking the wealthiest Americans to give up the tax cuts they’ve enjoyed,” Obama said.
After his remarks at Century Village, Obama met with two dozen donors who contributed $20,000 each to his re-election efforts. He hosted a similar fundraising event in Jacksonville earlier in the day.
Overall, Obama has his own troubles when it comes to seniors and healthcare. They generally don’t like the president’s healthcare plan, which trims $500 billion from Medicare over a decade.
About 52 percent of likely Florida voters view the federal health care law unfavorably while 43 percent view it favorably, according to a poll conducted last week by Mason Dixon Polling & Research Inc on behalf of The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald, Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9.