President Obama toned down some of his harsh attacks on Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Thursday evening at West Palm Beach’s Century Village retirement community.
But not by much.
Beginning slowly with his half-hour speech, Obama rambled a bit with a gentle anecdote-laden speech about how he missed some of the early days of campaigning, where he meet real people and had a chance to hear their stories.
Soon he transitioned to Romney, whose very name elicited boos from the senior-centric crowd of 675 or so people. Obama reminded them that his opponent wanted to “let Detroit go bankrupt,” and that the Republican supported a Medicare plan that would trim future benefits while proposing tax cuts that could benefit the wealthy.
"It’s wrong to ask you to pay more for Medicare so that people who are doing well right now get even more,” Obama said, claiming that Romney could wind up raising taxes on the middle class – something the Romney camp denies.
“"I don't believe you can reduce the deficit without asking the wealthiest Americans to give up the tax cuts they've enjoyed,” Obama said.
Earlier in the day, Romney’s camp sent out a press release hitting back at Obama. It faulted him for cutting Medicare Advantage and for having no real plan to save Medicare.
Obama received a smattering of applause for his healthcare plan, which is nevertheless unpopular in Florida and the nation, according to numerous polls. Seniors are the most opposed.
Obama never mentioned his campaign’s call for Romney to release multiple years of tax returns. And he never said anything about Bain Capital, the private-equity firm that Romney led when it acquired some companies and laid off some workers.
When Obama took the stage, he seemed at ease, joking with the crowd about how his wife, Michelle, would get jealous from all the affection he received.
"I am so excited to be here,” he said. “First of all, I just want to say, that's the most kisses I've gotten at any campaign event. And that's just half the crew. I might get some more on my way around here. I like that! I like that! I like that!"
Then someone’s cell phone rang.
“Maybe that’s Michelle,” he joked, saying she was “getting jealous.”
Obama, who has spent an estimated $17 million on ads – many of them negative – said his opponents were the negative ones.
“They’ll have a bunch of ads with scary voices,” he said. “And they’ll say the same thing over and over again”
He also joked that they’ll find unflattering pictures of him, including ones that show him with a “droopy eye.”
"I've been to this rodeo before," he said.
The crowd also got into the act.
"Fight the power!" one elderly woman yelled.
"It's kind of a wild crowd here," said Obama. Later, when he talked about Medicare and fighting fraud, a man yelled out the name of Florida's governor, who owned a hospital company that paid an historic $1.7 billion Medicare fraud fine.
"Rick Scott!" he yelled.
Not everyone was tuned in. A few seniors drifting from the presidents speech, loudly chatting with each other in the back of the room as they tried to pin-point which friends were getting on TV as they stood behind the president.