Romney vs. Obama: Engaged

Photograph by Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan unveils his 2013 budget plan on Capitol Hill on March 20, 2012.

Now they are engaged.

After months of passing shots at one another, the presidential campaign of Republican Mitt R0mney and re-election campaign apparatus of President Barack Obama engaged in a duel of ideas this week that will serve the story line for months to come.

That federal budget that Romney and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill want to enact, for instance: “It is a Trojan Horse,” Obama told the nation’s newspaper editors and publishers assembled in Washington yesterday. “Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

“President Obama and I have very different visions for America,” Romney told those editors at another session in Washington today. “This election will be about principle. Freedom and opportunity will be on the ballot.”

The way Romney tells it, he holds the keys to unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit in America that made his own life’s story one of business success and personal prosperity. Obama, he suggests, has never met a business he liked. Obama has engaged in “an anti-business, anti-investment, anti-jobs agenda,” Romney said.

“We are on a path to becoming more and more like Europe, and Europe doesn’t work in Europe,” Romney told the editors. “It sure as heck is not going to work here.”

Obama said: “I have never been somebody who believes that government can or should try to solve every problem…. I know that the true engine of job creation in this country is the private sector, not Washington.”

At the same time, Obama argues that the budget-cutting which House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is promoting, and which Romney has endorsed, undermines the potential of government to invest in that which Americans need most — education, health care, transportation, secure retirement — for promising futures.

Now that Romney has secured more than half the delegates needed to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, and holds more than twice the number of his closest rival, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the verbal duel of the two Harvard Law grads will only intensify. It serves Romney’s own immediate needs to frame his challenge now as a contest with Obama rather than a contest for the Republican nomination, which, as radio’s Hugh Hewitt says, “is still over.” And it serves Obama well to have an opponent for whom his advisers have been preparing for months.

The narrative of a campaign for an Election Day still seven months away has been in the writing for months.

This week, it published.

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