On Saturday, President Obama and the first lady, will hold their first official campaign rallies of 2012. The rallies will be held in Columbus, Ohio and Richmond, Virginia.
“Welcome to the general election,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters on a conference call last week. “Over the coming months, the choice between President Obama and Mitt Romney will become clearer and clearer.”
Messina said Michelle Obama will join the president for the back-to-back rallies.
Messina said in an e-mail to supporters: "Are we going to continue to move forward rebuilding an economy that's meant to last with a growing middle class and more Americans getting a fair shot? Or are we going to go back to the same failed policies that crashed our economy and left too many folks struggling to catch up? That's the choice."
Obama's announcement came after Mitt Romney effectively clinched the Republican presidential nomination with a five-state primary sweep last week.
In a speech at New York University Vice President Joe Biden previewed issues that will dominate the Obama re-election campaign between now and November, including ending the war in Afghanistan maintaining national security, and reviving the economy.
Biden says Romney’s foreign policy would be a throwback to President George W. Bush, “back to a foreign policy that would have America go it alone” and would lead to an isolation of the U.S. and a "waste of hundreds of billions of dollars and risk thousands of American lives on an unnecessary war.”
The debate surrounding the wider general election will undoubtedly be between Obama's record as president and Romney's record both as a businessman and as governor of Massachusetts, the campaign officials said.
The former Massachusetts governor vowed to use his business experience to “lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery,” declaring “the beginning of the end of the disappointments of the Obama years.”
Obama’s senior strategist, David Axelrod, called next week’s rallies an "inflection point" and said the campaign is eager to have a debate about Romney’s business background. He said Romney, a co-founder of the private-equity firm Bain Capital LLC, has "hung his hat" on his business record.
"His business career was not about job creation," Axelrod said. "It was about wealth creation for himself and his partners, and often it came through vehicles like outsourcing, leveraging companies with debt, bankrupting companies and making money off of those bankruptcies."
The Romney campaign released a statement saying that Obama was trying to distract from his administration’s economic record.
"Americans shouldn’t be surprised that President Obama’s campaign will attack Mitt Romney for his experience in creating jobs,” said Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman. “Unfortunately, voters will have to expect that the Obama campaign will be running a campaign based on personal attacks to divert, distract and distort."
"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."