President Barack Obama, campaigning in the key state of Ohio on Wednesday, sought to capitalize on a rare economic topic in which he out-performs Republican rival Mitt Romney on with voters – tax proposals.
A recent set of swing state polls show a majority of voters support the president's plan to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year with the additional revenues aimed at helping to reduce the deficit.
"The entire centerpiece of my opponent's economic plan is a new, $5 trillion tax cut on top of the Bush tax cuts," Obama said, adding that most of the proposed cuts would go to the wealthiest taxpayers.
Obama took the stage armed with what he described as a non-partisan evaluation of Romney's proposed tax plan, though the Republican's campaign was quick to point out one of the study's author is a former member of the Obama administration.
"Under my opponent's plan, who do you think gets the bill for these $250,000 tax cuts? You do. And you do not have to take my word for it. Just today, an independent, nonpartisan organization ran all the numbers on Gov. Romney's plan," he said. "They found that if Governor Romney wants to keep his word and pay for this plan, then he'd have to cut tax breaks that middle-class families depend on to pay for your home — the home mortgage deduction — to pay for your health care — the health care deduction — to send your kids to college."
The report, produced by the Tax Policy Center, was co-authored by Adam Looney, a former senior economic adviser at the White House, though Obama said, "this wasn't my staff, this wasn't something we did — an independent group ran the numbers" when presenting the analysis. Another author, William Gale, served on Republican President George H.W. Bush's economic team. But even Romney himself has said he would help pay for his tax cut proposals by eliminating some, maybe even many, of the current tax deductions available. He just hasn't specified which ones, exactly.
According to the Tax Policy Center and Obama, the Romney tax cuts would mean middle-class families would have to pay more than $2,000 annually.
"And here's the thing. He's not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit. He's not asking you to pay more to invest in our children's education or rebuild our roads or put more folks back to work," Obama said. "He's asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut. In order to afford just one $250,000 tax cut for somebody like Mr. Romney, 125 families like yours would have to pay another $2,000 in taxes each and every year."
The Romney campaign counters that the analysis doesn't account for the economic growth that would occur with lower taxes for the top bracket and corporations, nor does it take into account the spending cuts proposed by Romney – though that's an area where the campaign has also lacked specificity.
"President Obama continues to tout liberal studies calling for more tax hikes and more government spending," said Ryan Williams, a Romney campaign spokesman, in a release. "We've been down that road before – and it's led us to 41 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent. It's clear that the only plan President Obama has is more of the same. Mitt Romney believes that lower tax rates and less government will jump-start the economy and create jobs."
But while minor campaign kerfuffles about how much Romney pays in taxes and mini-gaffes about his wife driving several Cadillacs and his being friends with NASCAR owners don't necessarily have an impact on day-to-day polling and voters' choice, when paired against Romney's tax plan, they gain potency – particularly in the key demographic both candidates at times struggle connecting with: white, middle- and working-class voters.
"How many of you want to pay another $2,000 to give Mr. Romney or me another tax break?" Obama asked. "That's the choice in this election."
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.