NASHUA, N.H. - President Barack Obama's re-election campaign released a harsh new ad Saturday that accuses Republican rival Mitt Romney of looking to roll back regulations on Wall Street, turn Medicare into a voucher system, and slash education funding. The 30-second ad cast the incumbent in a defensive light -- someone fighting to hold onto cherished programs, not to propose new reforms.
Romney's campaign hit back, with spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg saying "we can't afford four more years like the last four" and predicting that voters would pick Romney's "positive agenda over President Obama's increasingly desperate attacks."
The Obama commercial, set to run in Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and Virginia, distills Obama's main argument for re-election: That the former Massachusetts governor will gut programs that help the middle class in favor of wealthy Americans and big banks.
"Mitt Romney's plan rolls back regulations on the banks that crashed our economy. Medicare, voucherized. Catastrophic cuts to education. Millionaires will get one of the largest tax cuts ever. While middle class families pay more. That's what Mitt Romney wants to bring here. Remember that when you go here."
Polls suggest that Romney has the edge among voters on which candidate would better revive the still-sputtering economy, while Obama leads on who would better defend middle-class interests. The president has spent months trying to paint his rival as an out-of-touch multi-millionaire, while Romney has portrayed his huge success as an investor as evidence he is the better candidate to spur growth.
In a sign of how important this battle is to Obama's political fortunes, the president also used his weekly address from the White House to underline those themes, charging that Republicans hope to "delay, defund, and dismantle" legislation imposing new rules on Wall Street in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 global financial meltdown.
"To make sure America never goes through a crisis like that again, we passed tough new Wall Street reform to end taxpayer-funded bailouts for good," he said.
"That's what Wall Street reform is all about — looking out for working families and making sure that everyone is playing by the same rules," said Obama.
"Sadly, that hasn't been enough to stop Republicans in Congress from fighting these reforms. Backed by an army of financial industry lobbyists, they've been waging an all-out battle to delay, defund and dismantle these new rules," he said. "I refuse to let that happen."
"We've come too far — and sacrificed too much — to go back to an era of top-down, on-your-own economics," he said, in a line that sounded ripped straight from his stump speech.
Obama has also strived recently to emphasize upbeat economic news (while never forgetting to highlight that he inherited a crisis from George W. Bush).
"Our businesses have added more than 5 million new jobs. The unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest level since I took office. Home values are rising again. And our assembly lines are humming once more," he said in his weekly address.
"The president's campaign is once again trying to cover up for his lack of an agenda to help the middle class," said the Romney campaign's Henneberg. "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are offering real change for a real recovery, with 12 million new jobs, rising incomes, and a stronger middle class."
Obama was holding a rally in New Hampshire, whose four electoral college votes are seen as up for grabs, as well as record a radio interview set to run in the Granite State on Tuesday. He was also to do radio interviews set to run in Miami, Fla. and Cincinnati, Ohio.