If there was any doubt the general election is underway, President Obama's scathing critique of the GOP's free-market economic philosophy yesterday should unofficially seal the nomination for Romney. Obama's speech, describing the GOP's entitlement reforms as "social Darwinism," was unusually personal for a presidential speech (it attacked Romney for using the word "marvelous"), and signals the White House is prepared for a fierce fight.
Romney countered with his own sharp jabs at Obama in his victory speech last night, portraying the president as stuck in a White House bubble, unaware of the economic hardships that many Americans are facing. He made the case that Obama wants to "transform" the country into a government-centered society.
Despite Romney being cast as a milquetoast moderate, this election is shaping up to be an all-out ideological battle for the vision of the future of the country - if the dueling speeches were any indication. Obama made a full-throated case for more government involvement and regulation, in portraying the GOP's vision of the future as downright radical. Gone were the days of compromise; this was a populist speech designed to resonate with the progressive base.
Romney, meanwhile, has been more outspoken about his desire to rein in spending and tackle the third rail of entitlement spending. In a notable change, there was very little talk about his biography. It was House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, the GOP's controversial face of entitlement reform, that introduced him last night - not his wife, Ann. And there are signs that Team Romney is seriously considering Ryan as a running mate, in order to brand the ticket as one focused on fiscal responsibility - which would be an enormous risk for a play-it-safe pol, like Romney.