Obama, Romney Duke it Out over the Middle Class

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IRWIN, Pa. -- The battle for the White House is turning into a fight for middle class voters.

President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney are both trying to convince this crucial voting block their policies will help them the most.

"President Obama attacks success so therefore under President Obama we have less success, and I will change that," Romney told voters in western Pennsylvania.

The Obama campaign fired back in a YouTube ad saying, "President Obama's plan asks the wealthy to pay a little more so the middle class pays less."

Meanwhile, a new Gallup poll shows Romney leading Obama 49 to 45 percent among voters with a household income between $36,000 and $90,000.

Poll numbers like that are keeping Obama's campaign message focused -- so focused that the Huffington Post noted he uses the words "middle class" an average of 11 times per appearance.

But it was something else he said that gave Romney an opening.

"If you've got a business, you didn't build that," the president recently told voters in Roanke, Va., saying, "Someone else made that happen."

Romney called the president's remarks "foolish" and "insulting" to entrepreneurs.

"To say that Steve Jobs didn't build Apple, that Henry Ford didn't build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn't build Papa John's Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn't build McDonald's, that Bill Gates didn't build Microsoft, you go down the list, that Joe and his colleagues didn't build this enterprise -- to say something like that, it's not just foolishness, it's insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America, and it's wrong," Romney said.

Entrepreneurs like Jason Cinti, a chiropractor who opened a practice with his brother, said they were shocked by Obama's comments.

"It seems like he's out of touch with reality," Cinti said. "I don't think he's talked to enough people who have started or opened a small business, and it's definitely a shock to a lot of small business owners."

Bush Tax Cuts and Obamacare

One major issue for middle class voters is taxes. Obama wants to extend the Bush tax cuts for people and small businesses that make less than $250,000. He would let the cuts expire for those making more than that.

Romney, however, wants to make those cuts permanent, cut individual tax rates by 20 percent, and lower the corporate rate to 25 percent.

And on top of the tax plans comes the president's healthcare law.

"With the way the economy is at this point, it's going to be a struggle and strain on a lot of middle class families," Cinti said.

It's voters like Cinti that the president is trying to convince.

"I'm going to do everything I can, as long as I have the honor of being president, to fight for you and working families and middle-class families all across this country," the president said.

Ultimately, the fight over the middle class isn't necessarily going to be about tax plans; rather it's going to be about defining the candidate. Will Romney come across as the rich, uncaring corporate raider? Or will Obama come across as the in-over-his-head, ineffective economic leader?

That defining process is starting now.

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David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.