The Obama campaign is vowing to reverse historic veteran voting trends in the upcoming election. In announcing its veterans and military family outreach effort on Thursday, the campaign director overseeing the effort said the incumbent Democrat is aiming to top his rival Mitt Romney among veteran voters, despite the fact that vets traditionally vote for Republicans.
"We're going to break down that mythology about the military voting history and the veteran voting history," said Rob Diamond, the Obama campaign official, speaking to reporters on a campaign call. "In 2004, veterans voted 57-41 for Bush. In 2008, they voted 55-45 for McCain. But the fact is we won the under-60 veteran vote with 51 percent [against McCain]. We won those between [the ages of] 55-45 with 53 [percent] for President Obama. There's a changing demographic out there, and there's a changing military."
The campaign is banking on the fact that Obama has overseen dramatic troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan, including the official ending of the war in Iraq, as well as his successful efforts to ramp up pressure on al Qaeda, which culminated with the death of Osama bin Laden.
"We know that this community gets what this president has done for them," Diamond said, adding that Obama has increased funding for veteran healthcare, successfully pushed for tax credits for businesses that hire veterans, and approved a beefed-up GI bill that allows veterans to obtain their undergraduate degrees for free.
"Veterans have seen incredible progress under this president in just three short years," he said. "That's why military families of all ages and all generations are organizing for him."
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, an Iraq war veteran and the son of Vice President Joe Biden, said the president has been "a strong and responsible leader in a complicated and often dangerous world."
"He's been successful in confronting our enemies without hesitation, to strengthen our alliances while remaining true to the values that make our nation great," Biden said.
The Obama campaign also cast aspersions on how a President Romney would treat veterans.
"As governor of Massachusetts, Romney cut veterans programs by hundreds of thousands of dollars just in his very first month in office and he even tried to cut the Department of Veterans Services by more than 11 percent," Diamond said. "The congressional Republican budget which Mitt Romney endorsed and said was 'marvelous' would slash veterans' benefits by $11 billion."
Asked to respond to the charges, Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said, "Governor Romney has a demonstrated record of strongly supporting our veterans."
"The Obama campaign's weak and misleading attacks are a desperate attempt to distract from President Obama's failure to keep faith with those who have defended our freedom," she added. "He is quadrupling healthcare premiums for military retirees, has quadrupled the number of veterans who have to wait months on end to receive their benefits, and created a jobs environment that has put a staggering 20.2 percent of our young returning veterans out of work."
The statement did not address the charges from the Obama campaign regarding Romney's history on funding for veteran programs.
Asked about the extended waits that many veterans have experienced when trying to obtain their benefits, Diamond said the Obama administration has had to cope with a backlog carried over from the George W. Bush administration and claimed at the time the VA was "woefully underfunded." Under the Obama administration, veterans have seen healthcare premium increases.
The battle for veteran votes will be most heated in swing states like Florida and New Hampshire, which boast a high percentage of veterans in the population.
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Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.