Now it's getting serious.
With Mitt Romney taking a giant step toward the Republican nomination, President Obama will kick off a more active phase of his re-election campaign with two rallies on May 5.
The rallies will be at Ohio State University in Columbus and Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond—two swing states that will be crucial in the November balloting. The timing coincides with the general acknowledgement that Romney will be Obama's Republican foe after he swept five primary elections Tuesday.
"Welcome to the general election," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. Senior Obama strategist David Axelrod added that it's now time for the president to draw sharp contrasts to Romney for adopting economic policies that Republicans tried, and failed with, under George W. Bush. Both Axelrod and Messina said Romney is taking a "back to the future" approach that would hurt the country.
Messina said Romney's economic policies include wrong-headed ideas, such as cutting taxes for the rich, tax breaks for Wall Street, and cuts in Social Security, Medicare and education. Axelrod argued that Romney's business career "was not about job creation, it was about wealth creation" for Romney and fellow investors. As Massachusetts governor, Romney's policies resulted in a loss of manufacturing jobs and a decline in wages, Axelrod told reporters. Overall, there is no basis for Romney's claim to "have the secret sauce that can turn the economy around," Axelrod said. In contrast, Axelrod said Obama's policies are gradually creating jobs and strengthening the economy.
After the conference call Wednesday, the Obama team sent out a text message to millions of Obama supporters that the president and first lady would be "holding the first public rallies of the campaign on May 5."
In response, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told reporters, "Americans shouldn't be surprised that President Obama's campaign will attack Mitt Romney for his experience in creating jobs. Unfortunately, voters will have to expect that the Obama campaign will be running a campaign based on personal attacks to divert, distract and distort."
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News & World Report and writes a daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at Kenneth Walsh on Facebook, and on Twitter.