President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney traded accusations on tax policy Thursday, with both claiming at campaign stops in battleground states that the other's strategies have failed.
Romney used a rally in Golden, Colorado, to unveil a simplified campaign message called for by some Republican strategists, laying out a five-point plan that he said would put the nation back on the correct economic path.
The proposals are traditional conservative stances on domestic energy production, trade, job training, deficit reduction and boosting small businesses, with Romney promising that, if elected, he would deliver on them to unleash the full potential of the U.S. economy.
"His policies have not worked. They have not gotten America back to work again," Romney said of Obama, citing 41 straight months of unemployment over 8%. "I'm going to get America working again."
In particular, Romney challenged Obama's call for extending lower tax rates, set to expire at the end of this year, only for income up to $250,000 for families or $200,000 for individuals, which would allow the rates on income above those marks to increase to 1990s levels.
Calling that plan a tax increase, Romney said it would inhibit the job creation needed for economic growth and described the Obama policy as being "like a dog trying to chase its tail."
In Orlando, Florida, Obama attacked Romney's call for more tax cuts as an example of long-standing Republican policy that was most recently enacted by his predecessor, helping bring the recession that was in place when Obama took office.
"They have tried to sell us tax cut fairy dust before," Obama said. "It is not a plan to move our economy forward. It takes us backward to a place we don't need to be."
The president also made a campaign visit to Virginia, while Romney joined Republican governors -- including several potential running mates -- at an Aspen, Colorado, conference.
In a format resembling a celebrity "roast" -- but one with blue blazers and verbal bouquets instead of vulgar put-downs -- the seated governors rose one-by-one to praise Romney.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Romney a man of "fabulous ingenuity" and "great integrity."
"We need you, we're looking forward to your services as president," said Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma.
"I really appreciate your focus on middle class families," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told Romney.
In a hint that Romney's decision on a running mate might come soon, his longtime adviser Beth Myers, who heads up the campaign's search for a vice presidential candidate, will be traveling with Romney to Colorado.
Polls show that Romney and Obama are statistically even in Colorado and Virginia, while Obama holds a small lead in Florida. All three states are among the eight or so considered vital to the chances of both candidates in November.
Reviving the American dream of equal opportunity has been the central theme of Obama's campaign, and Romney's new five-point message Thursday was an effort to blunt the president's middle class outreach.
In general, it rehashes Romney's previously stated stances on energy, taxes, deficit reduction, trade and small business development but offers few details
For example, the energy component involves easing regulations to expand domestic production of oil, coal and natural gas. A conference call by Romney's advisers made no mention of alternative sources such as solar or wind energy championed by Obama, but Romney included continued pursuit of such programs in his later remarks in Colorado.
The tax component came under heavy criticism from Obama, who cited a study by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center that says Romney's proposals would provide large cuts to the very wealthy while increasing the burden on the lower and middle classes.
Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior Romney campaign adviser, called the report "a joke" on Thursday's conference call, while Romney economic adviser Kevin Hassett said it fails to include the projected revenue increase from an expanded employment base that Romney's policies would bring.
"Eliminating that from your analysis means you're going to have a very, very biased result," Hassett said. Romney officials also complained that one of the study's three authors was a former member of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.
In his Florida remarks, Obama ridiculed the Romney team's criticism of the report, noting another of the co-authors was an economist in the administration of Republican President George H.W. Bush.
"They said (the report) didn't take into account the economic growth that would result from tax cuts," Obama said, drawing laughter when he added: "We all know how well that worked the last time they tried it."
Romney calls for cutting today's rates by 20% as well as eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax and limiting current deductions, exemptions and credits available to top-level income earners.
However, Romney has yet to say which specific tax breaks he plans to eliminate, and the Tax Policy Center report indicated the result of his plan would force the tax burden to shift toward lower- and middle-class Americans.