VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - Challenging his opponent on taxes and
spending, President Barack Obama said Friday if Mitt Romney and
Republican leaders are unwilling to let tax cuts lapse for the wealthiest Americans, they're "not serious" about reducing the deficit.
Courting voters in battleground Virginia, Obama renewed calls to
extend Bush-era tax breaks for those earning $250,000 or less while
the two sides argue about higher earners, affecting the top 2 percent of Americans. But he charged Republicans with balking, and holding middle-class cuts "hostage."
"If you say you want to bring down the deficit, but you're not willing to let tax cuts lapse for the top 2 percent, it tells me you're not serious about deficit reduction," Obama said at a campaign rally. He said lawmakers should "go ahead and help middle-class families right now. And so far, I have not gotten an OK from the other side on that. And that tells me I guess they're not that serious about deficit reduction."
Obama sought to confront head-on a key argument from Romney and Republicans, who have said Obama has promoted tax increases and allowed the federal deficit to grow during the past 3 1/2 years.
Romney has called Obama's plan a massive tax hike that will hurt small businesses, one of the major creators of new jobs.
Obama was traveling through the southeast and southwest corners of the state Friday, courting young and African-American voters in the Virginia Beach-Hampton area before turning to more conservative Roanoke. On Saturday, Obama will campaign in Richmond, a once-staunchly Republican region he won in 2008.
Both campaigns acknowledge Virginia's new role as a fiercely contested state after years of being virtually overlooked in presidential politics. Obama won the state by a 53-46 margin over
his 2008 Republican rival, Sen. John McCain. Obama opened his visit by meeting with military families in Virginia Beach, a nod to the
state's large military presence.