(CNN) – President Barack Obama will officially kick off his re-election campaign on May 5 with two rallies in the key states of Ohio and Virginia, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina announced Wednesday night.
The president will appear at both rallies with first lady Michelle Obama, first visiting The Ohio State University in Columbus before traveling to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond in the afternoon.
- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
"The Republican candidates have been out there for over a year campaigning and the president's going to lay out his vision," Messina said on a conference call with reporters. "This will be a ramp-up, not a zero-to-60 moment. So we won't start doing a bunch of these rallies. These will be the first two and then we'll have more announcements about the rest of them coming up."
The president's re-election effort will begin in two states that the Obama campaign sees as critical to its success in November, Messina said, but he said the campaign will continue its efforts to expand the electoral map.
Messina and senior campaign strategist David Axelrod said these rallies would bring to an end the one-sided conversation of the GOP primary race and begin a two-way conversation between Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
"The monologue is over," Messina said. "Now Romney has to put his record and his agenda up against the president's, and we look forward to that debate."
The debate will be between Obama's record as president and Romney's record both as a businessman and as governor of Massachusetts, the campaign officials said.
Axelrod pointed to a speech Romney delivered in New Hampshire on Tuesday night in which he largely ignored his record in public office, instead emphasizing his business experience to argue he is capable of turning the economy around.
"He did turn the economy around in Massachusetts," Axelrod said. "They went from 37th in job creation to 47th in job creation. They had one of the worst records in the country of losing manufacturing jobs; wages declined by 2%. This in the midst of a better economy (than exists now)."
The Romney campaign's communications director, Gail Gitcho, released a statement arguing that the president is running away from his record.
"If President Obama's record was as good as Mitt Romney's, he'd be running on it," Gitcho said. "Instead, he is running away from it. No matter how hard President Obama tries to make this election about something else, as Mitt Romney said last night, 'It's still the economy, and we're not stupid.'"