Green Bay, Wisc.
President Barack Obama began his first official campaign event since Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast by sounding notes of bipartisanship and national unity.
“When disaster strikes, we see America at its best. All the petty differences that consume us in normal times all seem to melt away,” Obama said. “There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm. They’re just fellow Americans.”
For a moment, it sounded like the Obama of 2004 and 2008. But the moment quickly passed. And the Obama of 2012 appeared on stage, warning about Republicans who would side with “mortgage lenders that are unscrupulous,” wouldn’t “protect our kids from toxic-dumping and mercury pollution,” and would enact "another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy."
“We do believe this country’s stronger when there are rules to protect our kids from toxic-dumping and mercury pollution. When there are rules to protect consumers and ordinary families from credit card companies that are engaging in deceptive practices, mortgage lenders that are unscrupulous," Obama said. He also professed belief in a “tax code that rewards hard work" and "quality affordable health care."
"That’s what we believe. You know for eight years, we had a president who shared these beliefs. His name is Bill Clinton," Obama said.
The president also portrayed himself as a compromiser, but said he'd never compromise on the issue of sending federal tax dollars to the largest abortion provider in America, Planned Parenthood.
“I will never allow politicians in Washington to control health care choices that women should be making for themselves," Obama promised.
"If you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you’ll vote for leaders –- whether they are Democrats, Republicans, or independents –- who feel the same way," Obama said. "But if the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals that will kick students off of financial aid, or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood, or eliminate health care for millions on Medicaid who are poor, or elderly, or disabled, just to give a millionaire a tax cut, I’m not having it. That’s not a deal worth having. That’s not bipartisanship. That’s not change."
Obama's support for abortion and Planned Parenthood has figured prominently into his campaign, but a number of popular Republican governors--Wisconsin's Scott Walker, New Jersey's Chris Christie, Indiana's Mitch Daniels--have acted to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.
The incumbent president also sought to portray himself as the candidate of "change."
"In the closing weeks of this campaign, Governor Romney has been using all his talents as a salesman to dress up these very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we’ve been cleaning up after for the past four years. And he is offering them up as change," Obama said. "He’s saying he’s the candidate of change."
"Well, let me tell you, Wisconsin, we know what change looks like," Obama continued. "And what the Governor is offering sure ain’t change. Giving more power back to the biggest banks isn’t change. Leaving millions without health insurance isn’t change. Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy isn’t change. Turning Medicare into a voucher is change, but we don’t want that change."
While the president delivered a number of sharp attacks on Republicans, he was light on specifics about what he would do in a second term.
"Right now, we can put people back to work fixing up roads and bridges," Obama said. "Right now, we can expand broadband into rural neighborhoods."
Obama will be back in Wisconsin campaigning with Katy Perry in Milwaukee on Saturday and with Bruce Springsteen in Madison on Monday.