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Obama focuses on middle class in weekend Va. swing

Saturday - 7/14/2012, 8:56pm  ET

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AP Political Writer

GLEN ALLEN, Va. - In driving rain, President Barack Obama turned up the heat Saturday on Republican Mitt Romney in the electoral battleground of Virginia, appealing directly to the middle class to reject him as a wealthy Wall Street insider who sent American jobs overseas.

Ending a two-day, five-city swing, Obama was undeterred by a thunderstorm as he addressed several hundred soaked supporters outside a reconstructed early 19th- century tavern in a Richmond suburb, his drenched light blue shirt matted to his skin.

Republicans countered each Obama visit, attacking his health care reform plan, soaring deficits and tax increases to follow.

The president said Romney's Republicans believe in a top-down economy where taxes are cut and regulations are relaxed for the wealthy.

"You know, we tried that for about a decade before I took office and it did not work then and it won't work now," Obama told the crowd, none of whom left despite streaking lightning and rumbling thunder under heavy, livid clouds.

Directly contradicting Romney's contentions, he noted his plan to keep tax cuts put in place by former President George W. Bush in place for taxpayers who earn less than $250,000 a year.

"If people try to tell you I raised everybody's taxes, you can say, `That ain't right,'" Obama said.

His final Virginia stop was set for Saturday afternoon in Centreville, a northern Virginia exurb of Washington.

Obama's Virginia blitz comes as he aims to protect a slight lead in the state in a Quinnipiac University poll last month and saturates the state's television markets with ads making the vehemently disputed claim of widespread foreign outsourcing of American jobs while Romney was in charge of the private equity firm Bain Capital.

In 2008, Obama handed Virginia Republicans their first defeat in a presidential election in 44 years, winning Virginia's 13 electoral votes and clenching the presidency as three Democrats swept into U.S. House seats that Republicans had held.

Romney stayed out of Virginia, but his proxies were busy. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani campaigned in Richmond while Gov. Bob McDonnell and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker blasted Obama at a news conference just before the National Governors Association summer meeting convened in Williamsburg on Friday.

Obama appeared gratified that the inclement weather didn't diminish a crowd that stood for more than an hour waiting for him, under a sweltering sun at first, then in the rain.

"Forget those hair styles. They're gone," he joked. "We're all wet now."

Among those who stuck it out were Pam Mines, 37, of nearby Chesterfield, and her two daughters, Michelle Mines and Sydnee Baker, both 10 and both getting their first in-person look at an American president.

"He came out here in this rain and got soaked _ no umbrella, no nothing _ just like all of us," Pam Mines said. She said the president's message tailored to the middle class resonated with her. She owns a small business that mentors children from age 5 through 21 and has an autistic son, making Obama's health care law indispensable for her family.

Both girls had made crayon drawings in support of the president and brought them to the rally, shielded from the torrent in a plastic sheath. One drawing bore the handwritten legend, "I (heart) Obama," and both had been reproduced on the T-shirts they wore.

As they filed away from the event afterward in soaked clothing and hair, both of the drawings bore Obama's fresh signature.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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