Looking to bounce back from a widely panned debate performance, President Obama told a UW-Madison crowd this afternoon the real Mitt Romney didn't show up last night.
"When I got on the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney, but I knew it couldn't be Mitt Romney," Obama said.
Obama told the crowd the real Romney has spent the last year running around the country promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy, but the Romney he faced last night claimed "It was all news to him."
"If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth," Obama said.
The president charged Romney cannot pay for his $5 trillion tax cut and $2 trillion in new spending the military did not request without "blowing up the deficit or sticking it to the middle class." Obama, instead, called his own approach a to rebuilding the economy a "new economic patriotism" focused on cutting down on outsourcing and ensuring equal opportunities for all citizens. He noted that Obama's plan would require those making more than $250,000 to pay a higher tax rate.
"This country doesn't succeed when only the rich get richer, we succeed when everybody has a shot, when the middle class is getting bigger, when there are ladders of opportunity into the middle class," Obama said.
Obama repeatedly mocked Romney for his responses during last night's debates, referring to him as "that guy playing Mitt Romney." Obama repeated his assertion that Romney's budget priorities would force cuts to higher education. He also poked fun at Romney's threat last night to cut funding for the Public Broadcasting Service.
"He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he's gonna crack down on Sesame Street," Obama said. "Thank goodness somebody is finally cracking down on Big Bird. Who knew he was responsible for all these deficits?"
Obama also touted his own successes, claiming the country had restored 500,000 manufacturing jobs, has a smaller reliance on foreign oil and the death of Osama bin Laden. He also noted his role in cutting private banks out of federal student loans and increasing Pell grants for those trying to get into college. He said that those achievements and events such as the end of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" prove his view of government was not about what could be done "for us" but what could be done "by us."
"Madison, that's why you cant buy into the cynicism that's so prevalent, the idea that the change we fought for somehow is impossible," Obama said. "Because when that happens, yeah, change doesn't happen."
UW-Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling estimated the crowd at 30,000, according to a pool report.
Obama's stop at the university's Bascom Mall followed an earlier event today in Denver. As he began to speak this afternoon, Romney spokeswoman Allie Brandenburger said the president was delivering more of what he did earlier in the day, operating "in full damage control mode, offering no defense of his record and no vision for the future."
"Rather than a plan to fix our economy, President Obama simply offered more false attacks and renewed his call for job-killing tax hikes," she said. "Last night, Mitt Romney demonstrated why he should be president, laying out the clear choice in this election. We can't afford four more years of the last four years. We need a real recovery -- and Mitt Romney has a real plan to deliver it."