President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney target middle-class voters


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The Independent US

President Barack Obama pressed a deadlocked Congress to take action on an election year “to do” list of economic proposals to promote job creation and help families refinance their mortgages.

The list is Obama's latest attempt to portray congressional Republicans as obstructing his economic agenda at a time when millions of Americans are out of work. Obama has sought to tie Mitt Romney to party leaders in Congress, arguing that the likely Republican presidential nominee would simply rubber-stamp their policies.

Romney, meanwhile, was expected to further cement his hold on the Republican nomination in three state primaries today. The votes in Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina will add to his delegate count that is still nearly 300 short of the 1,144 needed to seal the nomination at the Republican National Convention in August.

Romney's one-time chief rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, whose departure from the race last month confirmed that Romney had the nomination all but in hand, endorsed the former Massachusetts governor Monday in a late-night email to supporters.

As he pressed Congress for action, Obama was also opening a $25 million advertising blitz that confronts claims that the US economic recovery is sputtering under his leadership.

Obama's wish list includes eliminating tax incentives for companies that move jobs overseas and promoting new tax credits for small businesses and for companies to develop clean energy.

Obama is also pressing Congress to pass legislation creating a Veterans Job Corps to help service members returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan find work as police officers and firefighters.

White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted the measures should be able to pass in Congress.

"These are the kinds of initiatives that traditionally enjoy bipartisan support," Carney said. "They're the kinds of initiatives that outside independent economists identified as things that would have an immediate impact on economic growth and job creation."

Obama was issuing his list during a stop at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the State University of New York.

Republicans said they had a lengthy list of their own in the form of bills that have cleared the Republican-led House of Representatives but remained bogged down by Senate Democrats. They accused Obama of recycling old ideas.

The Obama advertising campaign highlights jobs being created, the killing of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden and the return of US troops from a lengthy war in Iraq in Obama's first term.

Countering from hard-hit Ohio, Romney argued that Obama's policies are squeezing middle-income Americans and that Romney's business background could help jump-start the economy.

"The president and I have fairly different visions for what it'll take to get America working again," Romney said.

The competing economic visions — and the huge Obama investment in TV advertising in nine key states — are shaping a White House race that new surveys suggest is competitive six months before Election Day in November. A poll of voters in a dozen key battleground states by USA Today and Gallup found Obama and Romney essentially even among registered voters — Obama 47 percent, Romney 45 percent.

Such states do not historically cast an overwhelming vote for the candidate of one party or the other. Only about 12 states are believed to be in play for both Obama and Romney, and under the U.S. electoral system they will decide the outcome.

The race is playing out in a country in which unemployment is hovering around 8 percent and where many voters are not feeling the growth that economists insist is occurring

The scope of Obama's ad effort — $25 million in one month in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida and Colorado — illustrates the huge advantage the incumbent Democrat has over Romney. Obama is tapping into a campaign bank account of more than $100 million, while Romney hurries to catch up after a costly and contentious primary season. The presumptive Republican nominee is relying on outside groups — like the pro-Romney Restore Our Future super political action committee — to keep him competitive on the air against Obama's campaign.

Liberal-leaning groups were getting a boost of their own from billionaire financier George Soros, whose staff told supporters that he would be donating $1 million to the advocacy group America Votes and another $1 million to the super PAC American Bridge 21st Century. American Bridge is a research group that supports Obama's re-election effort.