Obama, Romney Dodging Specifics

Critics say neither candidate has laid out what they would do for the next four years.

By + More

After many months of campaigning, multimillion-dollar ad blitzes, and endless speeches and interviews, President Obama and Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney still have a lot of explaining to do.

Obama has yet to reveal his top priorities for a second term in much detail, and Romney has yet to disclose the specifics of what he would do to fix the economy if he wins the White House.

Perhaps there will be some clarity in next week's first debate between Obama and Romney in Denver, or in the subsequent two debates in Hempstead, N.Y., and Boca Raton, Fla., later in October. But for now, the vagueness of both major-party candidates means voters are flying blind in a number of key areas as Americans assess whom to support.

[PHOTOS: The 2012 Presidential Campaign Trail]

OBAMA

The president is staying vague when it comes to the details of a second-term agenda. Obama apparently believes that his re-election campaign is doing well and he shouldn't rock the boat by announcing priorities that might raise opposition among key constituencies or cause hard feelings among those who might feel left out.

Critics wonder if a re-elected Obama would make an all-out effort to reform the immigration laws, or try again to engineer a grand bargain with congressional leaders to cut the deficit and reduce the national debt, or push for a big jobs-creation program, or launch another bid to promote peace in the Middle East.

Reacting to the criticism, Obama released a new two-minute television ad Thursday in which he called for "economic patriotism" and said that in a second term he would work to create manufacturing jobs, promote energy development in the United States, set up programs to train workers for the jobs of the future, and cut the deficit. But the ad doesn't include the kind of detail that critics have been looking for.

[RELATED: Obama Wields Power of Incumbency]

Instead, Obama emphasizes general objectives in the commercial, and repeats his familiar talking points that the nation was losing nearly 800,000 jobs per month when he took office and under his leadership the economy is now creating jobs. Obama also points out that he is extracting the country from the Iraq war, as he promised to do.

Obama sets his sights on Romney by arguing that the GOP nominee would return to "the same trickle-down policies" that helped to create the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009.

The commercial is set to air in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia.

ROMNEY

Romney is being vague when it comes to his tax and spending plans. The GOP candidate says he would cut taxes but won't spell out where he would close loopholes and end tax breaks to make up for lost revenue.

Romney points to his economic plan that includes reducing taxes on the wealthy and the middle class; cutting regulations that he says hurt businesses and limit growth; promoting international trade, and encouraging domestic energy development.

Without attaching many details to these proposals, Romney is taking the same approach as Obama in asking voters to trust him to take the correct course. The main theme of his campaign is to emphasize that he is not Obama and make the election a referendum on the incumbent and his policies, which Romney says have failed.

[RELATED: Mitt Romney Calls U.S.A. a 'Foreign Country' in His Tax Returns]

"His plan is to continue what he's done before," Romney said during a two-day bus tour of Ohio this week. "The status quo has not worked. We cannot afford four more years of Barack Obama."

On Wednesday in Ohio, Romney referred ominously to the staggeringly high national debt and said, "It is immoral for us to pass on obligations like that to the next generation. The interest that you're paying on that debt every year is more than we pay for housing, for agriculture, for education and transportation combined."

But his prescriptions were ambiguous.

Some Romney supporters predict that he will get more specific in his three debates with Obama. Republican strategists are concerned that, with the election approaching, Romney has begun to lag seriously behind the president in the opinion polls, and that a big reason is his lack of credibility as a problem-solver on the economy.

Ken Walsh cover the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Facebook and Twitter.