VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (Reuters) - President Barack Obama called on Thursday for a new “economic patriotism” as he sought to win over military voters in Virginia, a critical state in his bid for re-election.
Obama said it was patriotic to support policies that he said would help middle-income voters, whose support his campaign is targeting in the November 6 election.
“During campaign season you always hear a lot about patriotism. Well, you know what? It’s time for a new economic patriotism. An economic patriotism rooted in the belief that growing our economy begins with a strong and thriving middle class,” Obama told a crowd of some 7,000 in Virginia Beach, home to several military bases.
“And I won’t pretend that getting there is easy. The truth is it’s going to take a few more years to solve challenges that were building up over decades, but I want everyone here to understand, our problems can be solved,” he said.
The patriotism angle was a new line in Obama’s campaign speech and was likely aimed at the state’s large population of veterans. The message was consistent with his theme of promoting tax policies and social programs that support the middle class.
The Democratic President’s campaign has sought to portray Republican challenger Mitt Romney, a wealthy former private equity executive, as out of touch with average Americans and as a proponent of policies that benefit the rich.
Democratic Senator Jim Webb, a former Marine who introduced the president, heaped criticism on Romney for failing to mention veterans during his speech at the Republican National Convention last month.
Virginia is one of a handful of swing states that could decide the election. Obama has traveled to the state 14 times this year, according to his campaign, and Romney was speaking in northern Virginia at around the same time on Thursday.
Obama won Virginia in 2008, the first time the state went to the Democrat in a presidential election since 1964. He has a lead now of 4.5 percentage points, according to an average of polls by RealClearPolitics.
Obama’s campaign released a new, 2-minute television ad on Thursday featuring the president talking directly to the camera about his record and his plans for a second term.
”When I took office, we were losing nearly eight hundred thousand jobs a month, and were mired in Iraq,“ Obama says in the ad. ”Today, I believe that as a nation we are moving forward again. But we have much more to do to get folks back to work and make the middle class secure again.
The ad will air in Virginia as well as in other battleground states New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and Colorado.
Romney’s campaign responded with an attack on Obama’s record on the deficit.
“Four years ago, Barack Obama called it ‘unpatriotic’ to run up debts our children will have to pay. Yet in the time it takes his latest ad to run, our national debt grows by at least another $5 million,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
“Mitt Romney will strengthen the middle class, create 12 million new jobs and deliver what President Obama hasn’t - a real recovery.”
additional reporting by Margaret Chadbourn and Lisa Lambert in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell and David Storey