President Barack Obama showed plenty of self-awareness during campaign and fundraising stops in New England yesterday, outlining the attack ads likely to be aired against him as Election Day approaches.
"From now until November the other side will spend more money than at any time in American history and almost all of it will be on ads that tell you the economy's bad, it's all Obama's fault, he can't fix it because he thinks government's always the answer, because he doesn't have the experience of making a lot of money in the private sector or because he's in over his head or because he thinks everything's just fine," Obama told an enthusiastic crowd in Durham, New Hampshire on Monday.
Obama's 2008 campaign broke all previous spending records but many expect Republicans, through a combination of Republican Mitt Romney's campaign, the GOP national party and outside spending, to smash those totals this election year.
"That's what the scary voices in the ads will tell you over and over and over again," he continued. "That's what Mitt Romney will say, that's what the Republicans in Congress will say and I give them a lot of credit, they've got a lot of message discipline. Over and over and over again. It doesn't matter if it's true."
The president's pitch to New Hampshire voters, which is both expected to be one of the closest swing states but also worth only four electoral votes of the 270 needed to win the presidency, indicated he is willing to acknowledge his shortcomings.
"I made commitment to you, I said, 'you know what? I'm not going to be a perfect president. I'm not a perfect man. Michelle can tell you that," Obama said. "But you know what I did say? I said, 'I will always tell you where I stand, I will always tell you what I think, what I believe. And I'll wake up every single day fighting as hard as I can for you."
It's on these grounds – that while he may have fallen short of expectations, voters can still trust where he is on issues – Obama hopes to win over crucial independent voters. His remarks also serve to draw a deeper contrast between himself and rival Romney, whose staff was dogged by reporters on Monday to get a straight answer about how the candidate felt about the Supreme Court ruling largely against an Arizona immigration law he repeatedly praised.
Eventually Romney, addressing a fundraising crowd in Arizona, said simply that he wished the court had granted states more latitude in their ability to address illegal immigration, not less. But from women's health care, to education policy, to cutting government spending and reforming the tax code, Romney has been short on details so as not to offend voters. Obama showed Monday he's willing to fill in the blanks.
"They want to give the policies of the last decade another try," Obama said. "They will take America back down this path that we tried. I believe they're wrong. I believe their policies were tested and they failed. And my belief is not just based on some knee-jerk, partisan reaction, it's based on the fact that we tried it."
Juxtaposing his plans with Romney's, Obama said the election was about making choices.
"I don't believe that giving millionaires and billionaires a $250,000 tax cut is going to do more for our future than higher transformative teachers or providing financial aid to the children of middle class families," he said. "I don't believe a poorly designed tax cut like that is more likely to create jobs than providing loans to new entrepreneurs or tax credits to small businesses who hire veterans. I don't think it's more likely to spur economic growth than investments in clean energy and research and new roads and bridges and runways or elder care."
The president also campaigned in Massachusetts on Monday and will spend parts of Tuesday campaigning and fundraising in Georgia and Florida. Romney has scheduled a Tuesday campaign event in Virginia, another hotly contested state.
Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter.