Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally at Dayton International Airport… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )
VANDALIA, Ohio — Mitt Romney said Tuesday that President Obama did not raise taxes during his first term, contradicting a constant attack he has leveled on Obama — that his healthcare plan was a tax increase.
“I admit this, he has one thing he did not do in his first four years — he’s said he’s going to do in the next four years — which is to raise taxes. And is there anyone who thinks raising taxes will help grow the economy? No!” Romney told thousands gathered at a chilly tarmac rally. “His plan is to continue what he’s done before. The status quo has not worked. We cannot afford four more years of Barack Obama. We’re not going to have four more years of Barack Obama.”
Romney made the statement during the kickoff of a four-city, two-day bus tour of Ohio, a critical state in his path to the White House. Both campaigns are contesting the state fiercely, and the end result is expected to be tight, though nearly all polling shows Obama with a narrow edge.
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[Updated at 4:55 p.m.: The Romney campaign says the nominee was talking about federal taxes. "The governor has repeatedly pointed out that President Obama has raised taxes, in addition to increasing federal spending," said advisor Kevin Madden. "The governor was specifically referring to President Obama's promise to raise income taxes in a second term, which would also impact small businesses."]
Rich Beeson, Romney’s political advisor, told reporters aboard his campaign plane that he does not buy the public polling but trusts the campaign’s internal data, which he declined to reveal. The Obama campaign has an organization advantage in the state, with 100 offices to Romney’s 40, but Beeson said the amount of voter contact was identical. He derided the Obama campaign as overly confident.
“They’re sort of spiking the ball at the 30-yard line right now. Look, Ohio, there’s still 42 days to go. We are by any stretch inside the margin of error in Ohio. And the Obama campaign is going to have some problems there,” he said, citing parts of the state inhabited by blue-collar Democrats and places affected by manufacturing decline, including a tank factory in Lima that will be shuttered. “They’re the reigning champs. They won. But I will put our operation up against anybody’s. But at the end of the day, Ohio is going to come down to the wire and we’ll be in it down to the wire, and I’m confident that we will win.”
At the rally, Romney reiterated his five-point plan that he says will create 12 million jobs, paying special attention to his pledge to increase international trade and to crack down on China for currency manipulation and other unfair trade practices.
When nations trade on a fair basis, Romney said, “we will compete, we will win, we’ll raise wages here, we’ll create jobs. But I also understand that when people cheat, that kills jobs. China has cheated. I will not allow that to continue.”
The event was visually dramatic, unfolding on the tarmac of the Dayton airport. Romney’s campaign plane along with running mate Paul D. Ryan’s were parked in the backdrop, along with campaign buses. Lee Greenwood sang “Proud to Be an American.”
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Romney was accompanied by Ryan as well as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rob Portman of Ohio. Romney noted that Portman has been playing Obama in his debate preparations.
“He plays Barack Obama, he plays him well, too, I hate to tell you. We get the chance to debate one another and after the hour and half or so is over, I like, I want to kick him out of the room. He is so good,” Romney said. “But he doesn’t convince me. Actually, when he gets finished, he says, ‘You beat me again, you beat me again.’ He likes my arguments, you see. He is a better debater, but he likes my arguments better -- he knows they are right.”
Portman highlighted the importance of early voting. In-person early voting starts in Ohio on Tuesday, and the campaign handed out absentee ballot applications at the rally.
“The best thing we can do right now is bank votes. So vote absentee, take advantage of it and be sure you’re getting the word out to your friends, your neighbors, folks you go to church with, people you are seeing in your neighborhood who may or may not even want to vote,” Portman urged. “Tell them we need their vote and we need it now.”
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