DES MOINES, Iowa — Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are making the hard sell to working-class and women voters while raising the volume of their criticism to cast the other guy as an extremist.
Romney’s team thrust welfare into the campaign with an ad claiming that Obama planned to dole out taxpayer dollars to anyone, even those not trying to find work. For his part, Obama was to appear Wednesday with Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University student who became a flashpoint for women’s health and, by proxy, abortion rights. Obama’s message: Romney would take away women’s health insurance benefits won by Democrats.
Romney is set for a Wednesday morning rally in Des Moines before flying back to New Jersey to raise more money for his already sizable campaign accounts. Obama is heading westward to Colorado to make the case to voters, especially women, that he should be re-elected in November.
Romney charged that Obama was undoing welfare reforms President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996 by offering waivers to states. His campaign sees Obama’s decision as an opportunity to argue that the president is a liberal who wants to give the poor a free pass at the expense of the middle class.
White House spokesman Jay Carney blasted Romney’s assertions as “categorically false and blatantly dishonest.” The White House said Obama wanted to give states the flexibility they had been seeking to tailor the program to their needs.
Some conservatives fear the increased latitude could allow states to get around the work requirements, which were a key element of the welfare overhaul under Clinton. But the former president himself weighed in, saying in a statement that the assertion in Romney’s ad was “not true” and the ad misleading.
The welfare issue as pushed by the Romney campaign appeared to be aimed at blue-collar whites in a weak economy and suggested that Obama might be gaining ground politically with his position on taxes.