CINCINNATI, OH -— President Barack Obama took aim at Republican challenger Mitt Romney at the top of an otherwise lighthearted town hall meeting in a key battleground state.
The president addressed unplanned questions about topics ranging from gay rights and education to haircuts at a crowd of 1,200 here in southwest Ohio.
But not until he leveled more criticism at Romney.
The president said he hadn’t found “any serious economic study” that claims Romney’s economic plan would create jobs, “until today.”
“Today we found out there's a new study out by nonpartisan economists that says Gov. Romney's economic plan would in fact create 800,000 jobs. There's only one problem: The jobs wouldn't be in America,” he continued.
The president went on: “By eliminating taxes on corporations' foreign income, Governor Romney's plan would actually encourage companies to shift more of their operations to foreign tax havens, creating 800,000 jobs in those other countries.”
The president was citing an article from a tax policy newsletter called “Tax Notes” by a Reed College economics professor named Kimberly A. Clausing. In the article, Clausing doesn’t mention Mitt Romney by name but she does claim that a “territorial” corporate tax system similar to one of the aspects of Romney’s tax plan, would “encourage job creation abroad instead of at home.”
The Romney campaign as well as congressional Republican offices immediately pounced on the new talking point, sending out links to a Weekly Standard article that says Clausing is by no means “non-partisan” and that she’s donated money to the Obama campaign in the past.
Today’s move allowed the president to extend his outsourcing attack on Romney. “We don't need a president who plans to ship more jobs overseas or wants to give more tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. I want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing right here in Ohio,” Obama said to an applauding audience.
But none of the questions that came out of today’s town hall were specifically about taxes or Mitt Romney or Bain Capital. Mostly people wanted to know what could the president do about unemployment and how could he help small businesses survive the current economic times.
Tony White, who owns a barber shop in Cincinnati asked the president, “What will you be doing…for the self-employed and businesses…with less than 10 employees?”
The president used the question as an opportunity to bring up the tax cut fight going on in Washington right now.
“His [Romney’s] basic tax plan is to give folks at the top… a tax break. Now, we can have that debate. But what I've said is, in the meantime, let's give 98% of individuals and 97 percent of small businesses some certainty right now by going ahead and passing a law that says your taxes won't go up.”
Afterwards, White seemed satisfied with the response but did say he wanted the president to go into more depth about how small businesses can get help since there’s so much red tape in getting what he needs from the government. “If he can cut out some of that red tape for the small guy, everybody would be a lot better off,” said White.
White also took the opportunity to ask another question: “Also, when can I cut your hair?”
Over the laughter and cheers of the audience, the president responded, “You would not want a president who was disloyal to his barber…I am not going to let you cut my hair, because my barber would be hurt.”
But the president’s most controversial answer of the day very well could’ve been to a question he got from a Girl Scout in the crowd: “What's your favorite Girl Scout cookie?”
The president’s answer was that he’s pretty partial to the mint cookies. Though the president couldn’t quite come up with the name Thin Mints, some in the audience knew exactly what he was referring to and booed the choice.
“I didn't mean to create controversy here. There was somebody -- did you hear, there was somebody booing?”
Tomorrow the president heads to Texas to some fundraising.