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Romney trying to give his image ‘extreme makeover,’ Obama says

By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau –

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — President Barack Obama cast the “new, latest version of Mitt Romney” as a salesman simply softening his image in an effort to close the deal with voters.

After running in a Republican primary in which Romney called himself “severely conservative,” Obama said Thursday, “he’s trying to convince you that he was severely kidding.”

“He’s trying to go through an extreme makeover,” Obama told a crowd in the basketball stadium at the University of Miami.

As for analyses that estimate Romney’s plans to cut taxes would cost close to $5 trillion, Obama said, the Republican nominee for president “just pretends it doesn’t exist.”

“ ‘What $5 trillion tax cut?’ ” Obama said, imitating Romney at the first presidential debate. “ ‘Pay no attention to the $5 trillion tax cut … on my website.’ ”

Romney’s website doesn’t place a cost estimate on the tax policies he espouses, but the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center at the Brookings Institution analyzed the proposals and came up with the $5 trillion figure.

After suggesting earlier in the campaign that the costs of his plans would be offset by closing loopholes and ending deductions, Romney more recently has simply said he would not support tax cuts that would cost that much.

“The idea is that lower rates but fewer loopholes and the faster economic growth that results can generate a similar amount of tax revenue,” the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal said Thursday morning in an editorial supporting Romney’s take on things.

Citing that editorial, aides to Romney on Thursday accused the president of lying about the $5 trillion figure.

“Since President Obama can’t run on his own record of tax hikes on middle-class Americans or his plan to raise them even more in his second term, he continues to spread false charges against Mitt Romney’s plan to lower rates and strengthen the middle class,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul wrote in an email.

But Obama argues that Romney’s simply stating he won’t support $5 trillion in cuts doesn’t make it true — especially as the policies the Tax Policy Center analyzed are still part of the Romney plan.

“What he was selling was not working, because people understood his ideas wouldn’t help the middle class,” Obama said here. “These days, Mitt Romney is for whatever you’re for.”

Some in the crowd still hungered for tougher talk from their president.

As Obama shook hands on the rope line at the end of his rally here Thursday afternoon, a young man in the crowd of students held aloft his iPad with letters bold enough for the president read from a few feet away.

“TAKE YOUR GLOVES OFF!” the digital sign read.

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