"We've gone through the toughest economy and the toughest financial crisis in our lifetimes," Obama said at an event at a private residence in Owings Mills, Md.
"What we've seen not just here in the United States but worldwide is something that we haven't seen since the '30s. And we've still got a long way to go. There are a lot of folks out there who are hurting; a lot of folks who are looking for work or are underemployed; a lot of folks whose homes are underwater -- and we've been reading over the last several days about because of the plunge in housing prices, the loss of that wealth that a lot of families are experiencing -- it's put enormous strains on people all across the country, including here in Maryland.
"But what we have been able to do over the last three and a half years, after a decade in which we had been moving in the wrong direction, is to begin to point toward a trajectory where here in this country everybody is getting a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody is playing by the same set of rules -- trying to restore those core values here in America where if you work hard, you can make it; regardless of where you come from, what you look like, you have a chance if you act responsibly and you're willing to put in some sweat equity to make it here in America."
Obama cited the bailout of the automobile industry as one measure of success in bringing America back to "number one." He said clean energy production has doubled since his inauguration and his administration has made strides in making sure America is a prolific exporter and not just a consumer of goods from other nations.
"We're moving in the right direction, but this election in many ways is going to be more consequential than 2008, because for all the changes that we've been able to achieve -- equal pay for equal work legislation, reversing 'don't ask, don't tell,' healthcare legislation that gives 2.5 million young people the ability to stay on their parent's healthcare plans and gives 30 million people the opportunity to get affordable insurance for the first time, Wall Street reforms that are able to make sure that we don't go through another taxpayer bailout of our banking system like we did that last time -- despite all that work, we're going to need another term to make sure that we consolidate these gains and we lock in the kind of progress that we need to ensure that America's middle class is growing again," the president said.
Obama said the Republican Party's "only recipe for success is another $5 trillion worth of tax cuts on top of the Bush tax cuts that -- by every independent analyst who's looked at it -- would actually make a our debt and our deficits much worse, or alternatively, would lead to us slashing the kinds of investments that are required for us to grow over the long term."
"And so there's going to be a very stark choice in terms of how we deal with our debt and our deficits, how we grow an economy, how we invest in our people to make sure that the next generations succeeds," he said.
At an event at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Baltimore, Obama reminded supporters of what got him to the White House and said those same factors are at play in his re-election bid.
"We came together because of a shared belief that in America, your success should not be determined by the circumstances of your birth. If you're willing to work hard, if you're willing to take responsibility, you should be able to own a home. You should be able to send your kids to college. You shouldn't be bankrupt when you get sick. You should be able to retire with dignity and respect. No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter who you love, no matter what your faith, here in America you should be able to make it if you try. That's why we came together," Obama said.
"And back in 2008, we had a sense that Washington had strayed away from these basic values. Think about it. We had a record surplus that was squandered on tax cuts for people who didn't need them and weren't even asking for them; two wars fought on a credit card; Wall Street speculation reaping huge profits for a few while manufacturing was leaving our shores and a shrinking number of people were doing fantastically well, but more and more people had to get by with falling incomes even while the cost of everything from college to healthcare was skyrocketing."