MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) — Eager to turn the tables on his rival, President Barack Obama on Wednesday cast Republican challenger Mitt Romney as an advocate of tax cuts for the richest people in America at the expense of popular tax breaks for most everyone else.
Romney, Obama declared, "is asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut."
The president was reprising the middle-class tax debate in Ohio with campaign stops in Republican-friendly Mansfield and in the Democratic stronghold of Akron. Both sides also rolled out competing new television ads, marking the start of an August drive toward the two parties' national conventions at month's end and early September.
Countering the Republican argument that Obama's proposals would hurt small businesses, Obama charged that Romney's tax proposal would force many people to give up popular tax deductions for home mortgages, health care and college tuition. He pointed to a new report that concluded Romney's economic plan would shift the tax burden from wealthy taxpayers to low- and middle-class taxpayers.
"Folks making $3 million or more a year would get a quarter of a million-dollar tax cut," Obama told more than 2,000 supporters. "But listen, it gets worse. Under my opponent's tax plan, who do you think gets the bill for these $250,000 tax cuts? You do."
Invoking the study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Obama said Romney's plan would result in a tax increase of more than $2,000 a year for an average family with children.
"Ohio, we do not need more tax cuts for folks who are already doing really well," he said.
The report says Romney's plan to continue the 2001-2003 tax rates and to cut individual and corporate income taxes along with other tax changes would result in $456 billion in lower revenue in 2015. Romney has said his plan would be paid for and would not increase the deficit, but he has not said how he would accomplish that.
The study does not take into account any new spending cuts to make up the lost revenue, but assumes the wealthiest taxpayers would lose tax breaks first before middle-income taxpayers.
Because families with children receive significant tax breaks, any changes that reduce those breaks would affect those households more than childless adults, the study concluded.
The Romney campaign argued that the report is flawed because it does not include reductions in spending and because it does not fully account for potential economic growth caused by lower tax rates. The study does, however, account for some economic benefit from the Romney plan and still concludes that on net, taxpayers making more than $200,000 would see tax cuts and those making less would see tax increases.
Romney's camp also dismissed the study as partisan, noting that one of its three authors, Adam Looney, was a former member of Obama's economic policy team. Another author, William Gale, however, was a senior staff economist for President George H.W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.
Obama was resurrecting the middle-class tax debate as Romney wrapped up a three-country foreign trip and the monthly jobs report loomed on Friday. The House on Wednesday also was expected to consider Obama's plan to extend President George W. Bush's tax cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples making less than $250,000, along with a Republican proposal to extend the tax cuts for everyone.
Taxes have become a defining issue in the presidential race, and the outcome of the tax debate isn't expected to be decided until after November. With less than 100 days before the election, the campaign remains tight, with both sides trying to pump up their core supporters while competing for a narrow slice of undecided voters in about eight states that could tip the election.
Obama's campaign released a new ad Tuesday focused on taxes and the deficit, calling Romney's approach a way to provide a "new $250,000 tax cut for millionaires." The ad said Romney's approach on tax cuts, coupled with increased military spending, would add "trillions to the deficit."
The spot was airing in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Florida, part of what detailed advertising records show is a heavy investment in the range of $30 million during August.
Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams called it a "ridiculous ad coming from a president who shattered his pledge to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term."
Romney's campaign released a TV ad Wednesday attacking Obama's support for bailing out the auto industry. The ad highlights an Ohio General Motors dealer who was forced to close in 2009, and blames the Obama administration for dealership closures across the state.
The bailout was enacted by President George W. Bush in 2008 and continued under Obama. Romney previously argued that U.S. auto companies should be left to go through bankruptcy without government assistance.
The Obama camp has argued that the government bailout saved a million auto industry jobs, including that of auto dealers who would have been shuttered if GM and Chrysler had gone bankrupt without government assistance. Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki called Romney's ad "incredible and actually shocking."
Romney was spending Wednesday in meetings at the campaign's Boston headquarters as speculation swirls about who will be his running mate. The campaign is preparing to ramp up his public schedule in the weeks before the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., at the end of August. The schedule includes a bus tour next week in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida that could be part of the roll out of a running mate.
Obama planned to campaign Thursday in Florida and Virginia
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(Photo: AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)