President Obama completed his two-day tour of college towns Wednesday by sharpening his attack on newly minted GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan.
Speaking near the University of Virginia campus hours before Ryan was to address the Republican convention in Tampa, Obama cast the Romney-Ryan ticket as climate-change deniers set to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans by $5 trillion and meddle with women's reproductive rights. Romney will address the convention in Tampa to night.
"He calls my health care law Obamacare," Obama said. "I call his plan Romney doesn't care."
Earlier in his speech, Obama -- who announced on Tuesday plans to finalize a regulation to nearly double fuel economy in the nation's fleet of cars and light trucks by 2025 -- scoffed at Romney's criticism of the plan.
"Just yesterday, my opponent called my views on energy efficiency extreme," he said. "Maybe the steam engine is more his speed."
Obama aides and surrogates put special focus on Ryan before his speech.
Former representative Tom Perriello, who addressed the crowd before Obama, suggested that Romney's pick of Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, was a curious one, considering most Americans' dismal view of Congress.
"It is Paul Ryan's Congress that has a 9% approval rating from the American people," said Perriello, who served one term in Congress from Virginia before being defeated in 2010. "It's Paul Ryan's Congress that voted themselves a five-week vacation instead of voting to pass the president's jobs bill. Mitt Romney is the only person in the world who looked at this Congress and said I want to hire the brains behind that operation."
The Romney campaign dismissed Obama's speech as baseless rhetoric. The president is shifting blame to others, said Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg, "in an effort to distract voters from his failed policies."
Unlike his visits Tuesday to Colorado State University and Iowa State -- liberal college campuses in the middle of politically bifurcated states -- the rally in Charlottesville was held off-campus. The University of Virginia turned down the Obama campaign's request to hold an on-campus event because tightened security would have forced university administrators to cancel classes on the second day of the semester.
The event was instead held at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, a large outdoor music venue in downtown Charlottesville. As a result, the crowd of 7,500 seemed to skew older, but the message from the president was tailored to the younger voters.
"I need you," Obama said. "America needs you to close the gap between what is and what might be."
He later told the students not to be motivated out of concern for letting him down. "Don't worry about letting me down -- don't let America down," he said. "Don't let yourselves down."
Obama is no stranger to Virginia -- Wednesday's rally marks his 12th visit to the state this year and his sixth campaign visit since May.
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