President Barack Obama on Thursday kicked off the first leg of a two-day campaign swing through the crucial battleground state of Florida.
Speaking at a rally in Jacksonville, Obama sought first to distance himself and Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney.
In a state with a high proportion of retirees, Obama laid out a key distinction between himself and Romney in their respective approaches to Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly.
Obama noted that his signature domestic achievement, the health reform law sometimes derided by Republicans as "Obamacare," had provided assistance to seniors in paying for prescription drugs - closing the coverage "doughnut hole."
In contrast, Obama said Romney wanted not only to roll back that reform, which Obama said would cause fundamentally change the way the government pays for health care for the elderly.
"He plans to roll back health care reform, forcing more than 200,000 Floridians to pay more for their prescription drugs," Obama said of Romney's plans. "He plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program. … [And] if that voucher isn't worth enough to buy the health insurance that's on the market, you're out of luck."
Obama added, "Florida, that's the wrong way to go. It's wrong to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare just so millionaires and billionaires can pay less in taxes. That's not the way to reduce the deficit. We shouldn't be squeezing more money out of seniors who are just barely getting by right now."
Obama said his plan was aimed at making the existing Medicare system more efficient, while also allowing taxes on top income brackets to rise.
"My plan is to squeeze more money out of the health care system by eliminating waste, and going after abuse and fraud in Medicare," he said. "We can cut back government spending that we can't afford, but I will also ask anybody who is making over $250,000 a year to just go back to the rates they were paying under Bill Clinton -- because, by the way, that worked."
He added, "There is such a contrast in approach, two fundamentally different visions that you're going to have to choose from in this election."
Obama also highlighted his administration's efforts to help stabilize the housing market, which has been particularly hard hit in the Sunshine State, while also contrasting his approach with Romney's.
"On every measure, there's a difference in this election. My opponent has a plan to help responsible homeowners by letting the housing market hit bottom," Obama said. "That isn't a solution, that's a problem."
He added, "We've already helped more than a million responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages. And now I want to give everybody the change to refinance and save $3,000 a year. That's a plan for housing. That's the choice in this election."
Highlighting one of the key advantages of an incumbent president seeking reelection, Obama's campaign swing coincided with an announcement from the White House of an initiative to expedite expansions at several key ports, including Jacksonville and Miami in Florida.
"One way to help American businesses grow and hire is to modernize our infrastructure," Obama said in a written statement. "Today's commitment to move these port projects forward faster will help drive job growth and strengthen the economy."
Other ports that will see expansion work expedited by the executive order include Savannah, Ga., the Port of New York and New Jersey, and the Port of Charleston, S.C.
These are among an initial 43 projects that will be expedited by the executive order, according to the White House, and additional expedited infrastructure projects are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
by RTT Staff Writer
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