It was officially billed as a speech to promote raising the minimum wage, but President Obama's trip to the University of Michigan Wednesday had all the hallmarks of a campaign pitch - one that the nation will likely hear several more times as the midterm elections approach.
There was a laundry list of achievements (economic recovery, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, signing 7.1 million people up for health care), a recitation of the rest of the Democratic agenda (paycheck fairness, expanding college affordability) and a nod to the local restaurant (Zingerman's Deli, an Ann Arbor institution) where the president enjoyed a Reuben that he regretted splitting with his adviser, Valerie Jarrett.
Most importantly for any campaign speech, it included a takedown of his opponent's agenda. Democrats began to distill that message when Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a GOP budget this week full of spending cuts to help balance the budget in 10 years.
"Just yesterday Republicans in Congress put forward a budget for the country that I believe would shrink opportunity for your generation," Mr. Obama said, arguing that their plan would start with a huge tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of less fortunate members of society. In particular, he highlighted cuts to the Pell Grant program and a repeal of the health care law, which would jeopardize the ability of young people to stay on their parents' insurance.
He pushed Congress to pass a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, saying it "should be a no brainer" because of the widespread support for a minimum wage hike among the American public. Republicans have argued that such a move would actually decrease employment, citing a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study from earlier this year that said it would reduce employment by 500,000 jobs even as it increases the salaries of 16.5 million people and helps lift 900,000 out of poverty.
"The president's plan would increase costs for consumers and eliminate jobs for those who need them the most. The House is going to continue focusing on our plan to protect workers' hours and create jobs, not the president's plan to destroy them," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, before the speech.
Republicans are similarly working to undo a rule in the health care law that requires large employers to offer health insurance to any employee working 30 hours a week or more. By restoring a 40-hour workweek, the GOP argues that workers hours will be restored by 25 percent instead of cut to comply with the law.
But Mr. Obama argued that their position is really about wanting to get government out of people's lives.
"The Republicans' refusal so far to raise the minimum wage is pretty consistent with their general worldview, which says basically you're on your own, government doesn't have a role to play," the president said. "If this all sounds familiar it should be familiar because it was their economic plan in the 2012 campaign and the 2010 campaign....it's like that movie 'Groundhog Day,' except its not funny."