Cleveland, Ohio (CNN) – As President Barack Obama found himself literally on opposite sides of Mitt Romney Thursday – the rivals were campaigning on either ends of battleground Ohio – he sought to frame the election as a choice between two dramatically disparate views on how to fix the economy.
"What's holding us back is a stalemate in Washington of two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take. This election is your chance to break that stalemate," Obama said.
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At only his second official campaign event this cycle, Obama told a vocal crowd gathered at Cuyahoga Community College that November "is not simply a choice between two candidates or two political parties, but between two paths for our country."
The economy is once again front and center in this election year's message wars, a result of a slew of disappointing economic reports – including a particularly unsettling study released by the Federal Reserve that found the median family net worth had dropped nearly 40% between 2007 and 2010.
Just minutes after Romney told a crowd in Cincinnati that Obama's record is "long on words and short on action that created jobs," the president warned that Romney's proposals are nothing new.
"If you want to give the policies of the last decade another try, then you should vote for Mr. Romney," Obama said. "You should vote for his allies in Congress. You should take them at their word, and they will lead us down this path."
"Mr. Romney is qualified to deliver on that plan," he said.
And while Romney's proposals call for fixing the economy "from the top down," Obama said he will focus issues such as education, research and development, and tax reform in order to build up the middle class.
But a Romney campaign spokesman said it is Obama who is "is out of new ideas."
"That was an empty speech from a desperate President who is out of new ideas and out of time to keep his promises," said Ryan Williams, who has made a habit of showing up at opponents' campaign events.
"Unlike President Obama, Mitt Romney understands that the private sector is not 'doing fine' and he will promote new pro-growth policies that will turn around our struggling economy," Williams said, in reference to the president's now infamous comment made during a press conference he called last week to discuss the economy amid the recent bad news.
Obama was referring to the fact that 4.3 million jobs had been added in the private sector in the last 27 months, but the sound-bite friendly comment quickly became fodder for his opponents who said the remark showed he is out of touch with most Americans.
In no time at all, the comments were the subject of new web videos, and the Romney campaign released a TV ad Thursday that repeated the president's remark while highlighting disappointing economic statistics.
Obama tried to make light of his misstep Thursday, saying in this election, "there will be no shortage of gaffes and controversies that keep both campaigns busy and give the press something to write about. You may have heard I recently made my own unique contribution to that process."
"But though we will have many differences, there is one place where I stand in complete agreement with my opponent. This election is about our economic future," Obama said.
That is particularly true in the reliably battleground state of Ohio, which is shaping up to be one of the most competitive states in the nation, and is now the first state to host both campaigns on the same day this election cycle.
A recent Ohio poll showed Obama edging out Romney, but within the margin error. Romney trailed Obama by only one percentage point in the most recent national survey, which showed Romney ahead of the president when voters were asked which candidate would be better at creating jobs.
But another poll recent poll indicates that Obama may gain traction if he continues to blame his predecessor for the nation's economic decline, and will surely encourage him to continue to tie Romney to those unpopular policies.
A Gallup poll released Thursday showed 68% of Americans believe Bush deserves a great deal or moderate amount of blame for the fiscal situation, compared to 52% who said Obama deserved the blame.
– CNN Political Producer Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report.