PITTSBURGH - President Barack Obama told supporters in Pittsburgh on Friday the nation will regress in many ways if Republican politicians get their way in November.
Speaking to an audience of 6,500 people on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, Obama focused on jobs. He made little mention of the steel industry, however, during the Rust Belt campaign stop.
Obama visited the city as part of a multi-day "Betting on America" bus tour that took him across northern Ohio on Thursday and Friday morning before heading to the Keystone State. Both Ohio and Pennsylvania are hotly contested battlegrounds that have experienced modest economic gains.
Photo by Jennifer Compston-Strough
President Barack Obama asks supporters in Pittsburgh on Friday to continue to believe in him and cast their ballots in his favor in November. His visit to the Steel City concluded a two-day bus tour of northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
During an earlier visit to Poland, Ohio, on Friday, Obama responded to disappointing economic news. He called the 80,000 jobs created in June "a step in the right direction," even though the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.2 percent.
His message in Pittsburgh was that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has no solid plan to cure the slumping economy and increase job growth.
Obama said the Republican strategy of blaming him for those issues could win the election in November, but he stressed that it offers no tangible solutions to the problems. He added that Romney would promote economic policies the nation would find familiar - because they have been tried before without success.
"They are banking on the fact that you do not remember what happened when they were in charge," he said. "Why would we want to go backwards to the same theory if it did not work before?"
Obama said the key to making more progress is relying on the work of American citizens and giving young adults an opportunity to contribute. He cited the auto industry bailout and recent stoppage of a bill that would have doubled student loan interest as signs that change, while slow, is happening.
Romney took time out from his vacation in New Hampshire to counter the president's remarks. And he used virtually the same argument against Obama, saying the president represented liberal policies that had been discredited.
The Associated Press reports Romney told reporters he has a 59-point economic plan to counter the president. And he declared the persistent high unemployment rate a "kick in the gut."
"The president's policies have not gotten America working again," Romney said. "And the president is going to have to stand up and take responsibility for it."
In Pittsburgh, Obama also downplayed the notion that Romney will outspend him to win November's election.
"Over the next four months, you're going to see more money spent than at any time in history," he said. "These guys are writing $10 million checks."
Despite the difference in fundraising, Obama said the will of the people means much more.
"When Americans come together and tap into that spirit that's best in us, all that money doesn't matter, all those negative ads don't matter," he said. "If you still believe in me like I believe in you, I hope you will stand with me in 2012."
While he focused largely on jobs and industry, Obama made only a passing reference to energy and did not discuss the natural gas drilling boom that is expected to improve economic conditions in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Attendees braved near 100-degree heat for several hours, waiting under a blazing sun outside Carnegie Mellon's College of Fine Arts to hear Obama speak. Drinking water was readily available, but at least 12 people were taken to local hospitals for heat exhaustion. Several more were treated on site for issues related to the heat. Others simply dabbed themselves with ice cubes or doused themselves with water in an effort to keep cool.
Obama took the stage just after 2 p.m. He opened his 32-minute speech by congratulating the audience, which consisted mostly of Pittsburgh residents, on the Pittsburgh Pirates' remarkable season.
He added that he hopes the Pirates will meet his hometown Chicago White Sox in this fall's World Series.