DURHAM — President Barack Obama rallied his supporters and took aim at Mitt Romney in a speech at Oyster River High School Monday, seeking to draw a clear distinction between his economic priorities and those of his Republican rival.
“Gov. Romney and his allies in Congress fundamentally disagree with my vision. Neither of them will endorse a policy that asks the wealthiest Americans to pay one nickel more in taxes,” Obama said, adding, “In this country, prosperity has never come from the top down. It comes from a strong and growing middle class.”
Obama's trip to Durham was the first to New Hampshire to take place under the auspices of the Obama for America reelection campaign.
Obama visited Nashua in March and Manchester in November 2011, delivering speeches that focused primarily on his job initiatives.
Both Obama and Romney have made New Hampshire, which is considered a battleground state, a focus of their campaigns.
Romney swept through the state earlier this month in a five-day bus tour.
A spokesman for Romney said the President's attacks on the candidate were meant to divert attention from Obama's “abysmal economic policies.”
“President Obama's plans for post-election tax hikes on entrepreneurs and the disastrous effect of Obamacare on New Hampshire small businesses speak louder than any campaign speech,” spokesman Ryan Williams said.
Air Force One touched down at Pease in Portsmouth early Monday afternoon just as torrential rains abated. He was greeted on the tarmac by Portsmouth Mayor Eric Spear, Air National Guard Col. Paul Hutchinson and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who introduced Obama at the high school.
Onlookers waved as the President's motorcade sped from the base to the high school, although at one intersection, a crowd of protesters held signs reading “Dictator,” “Socialist,” and “Don't Tread On Me.”
More than 1,000 people — including students and adults — were packed into the humid gymnasium of Oyster River High School, and at several points during the President's speech they broke into enthusiastic chants of “four more years.”
There was especially vigorous applause when the President referred to the repeal of the “don't-ask-don't-tell” policy, his recent decision to stop deporting young illegal immigrants who have graduated from high school or served in the military, and when he alluded to Republican attempts to restrict access to contraception and abortion.
“You get to decide whether to restrict access to birth control and defund Planned Parenthood and whether women get to make their own health care choices,” Obama said.
After his speech, the President's motorcade stopped at the Dairy Bar ice cream shop on the campus of the University of New Hampshire, where Obama greeted about a dozen patrons and covered their tabs.
“I couldn't do this in front of a polling place, but here it's legal,” Obama joked.
Ken Smithe, who was visiting the campus from Michigan, said the President's stop was a great surprise. “I support him, especially after today,” he said.
Following the approximately three-hour visit, Obama left in Air Force One for Boston, where two fundraisers were scheduled for Monday evening.