President Obama Visits Mentor: What's New

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Mmmm…a few things:

The president recalled relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy’s devastating crawl across the northeastern seaboard. Mr. Obama referenced his partnership with one of his greatest critics, Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in tackling disaster-stricken parts of the state.

“Now you see heroes running into buildings. Wading into water to help their fellow citizens. Neighbors helping neighbors cope with tragedy. Leaders of different political parties working together, to fix what’s broken…(CHEERS)

Some are already characterizing Hurricane Sandy as the “October Surprise” that may be a game changer in the presidential race. But if bipartisan storm relief was a new element, another theme– not actually new, but one that was more prominent in the 2008 campaign, emerged: change. Only this time the President sought to reclaim the mantra of change from his challenger, Mitt Romney, who has recently been working it into his own campaign speeches.

Mr. Obama said Romney’s idea of change is actually based on failed or divisive policies of the past.

“Ohio, we know what change is, we know what the future requires. But we also know it’s not going to be easy. Now back in 2008, when I was talking about “change we can believe in”…I wasn’t just talking about changing presidents. I wasn’t talking about changing parties. I was talking about changing our politics.”

So technically not a new element for Mr. Obama, but one that the president is wrestling to reclaim from his challenger.

If you’re looking for a new element with that fresh car smell, then try the flap involving Mitt Romney’s recent round of campaign ads. They claim Jeep production is headed to China, though they don’t point out that it’s all part of Chrysler’s expansion, and no Ohio jobs are being sent overseas. This latest claim has the president and even the major car makers revving up their criticism.

“The car companies themselves told Governor Romney, `knock it off’.” GM said, `We think creating jobs in the United States should be a source of bipartisan pride.’”

Finally, the president brought back infrastructure…something he touted when he was plugging federal stimulus a few years back, with a nod to the Civilian Conservation Corps program during the FDR administration. But now the president’s working it in as he talks about how government can help businesses thrive.

“Washington…has a role to play in making sure that we’re creating great infrastructure, roads and bridges in our country, so that we can move products and services everywhere.”

Infrastructure’s not a sexy item, but Ohio’s location and manufacturing base make distribution of goods and services essential to its local economy.

Later today, my colleague Nick Castele will be listening for fresh themes from Mitt Romney as he appears at Cleveland’s I-X Center. We’ll hear Nick’s report Monday on Morning Edition.

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