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Obama Campaign Kicks Off General Election

President Barack Obama’s campaign announced today that he will kick off his re-election bid with first lady Michelle Obama with campaign rallies in Ohio and Virginia on May 5 and will eagerly contrast his vision to Mitt Romney’s.

“Welcome to the general election,” campaign manager Jim Messina said in a conference call with reporters, adding that Republicans have “settled for their candidate.” Messina said the president’s schedule would gradually ramp up with more campaign events, but he would remain focused on his “day job” of running the country.

“This will be a ramp-up, not a zero-to-60 moment,” Messina said.

The fundamental question in the campaign, he added, is “are we going to move forward or go backward?”

Messina and campaign strategist David Axelrod ripped Romney as the “Back to the Future” candidate who wants to return to policies of the Bush administration, with more tax cuts for millionaires and no regulations on Wall Street.

“He thinks our economy will grow if we return to the same failed policies that made it shrink,” Messina said.

Messina said Romney wants more tax cuts for “millionaires like him” while gutting programs seniors rely on such as Social Security and Medicare.

He added that Romney had been making dishonest attacks against the president for months.

“The monologue is over,” Messina said. “Now Romney has to put his record and agenda up against the president’s.”

Axelrod dismissed Romney’s business record as one that “was about wealth creation for himself and his partners,” which he said was largely built with outsourcing, leveraging companies with debt and profiting off bankruptcies.

He dismissed Romney’s gubernatorial record in Massachusetts as well and noted that Romney didn’t mention that state Tuesday night as he won more primaries.

Massachusetts “went from 37th in job creation to 47th,” Axelrod said. “It’s no wonder he omitted that.”

Axelrod also praised what he called Obama’s consistent support of the middle class, saying, “We’re not the candidate who reinvents himself from week to week.”

The Romney campaign dismissed the attacks.

“Americans shouldn’t be surprised that President Obama’s campaign will attack Mitt Romney for his experience in creating jobs,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “Unfortunately, voters will have to expect that the Obama campaign will be running a campaign based on personal attacks to divert, distract and distort. Like Mitt Romney said last night, ‘It’s still the economy, and we’re not stupid.’”

Axelrod also dismissed criticism from the Republican National Committee that Obama’s trips across the country in recent weeks have been nothing more than thinly disguised, taxpayer-funded campaign swings.

“We’re not going to get hot and bothered by RNC stunts,” Axelrod said.

Messina said the campaign would strictly follow rules requiring it to reimburse the government for campaign-related travel costs.

Axelrod said if Romney picks Ohio Sen. Rob Portman as his running mate, it wouldn’t affect the Obama campaign’s strategy for competing there. He added that if anything, Portman’s ties to the Bush administration’s economic policies — he was a Bush budget director and trade representative — would reinforce that Romney wants to return to the Bush policies.

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