Romney has raised eyebrows for opposing the auto-industry bailout. In his address, Obama chided, "[s]ome even said we should let it die." This is largely true of many Republicans in Congress, who could not bring themselves to applaud a proposal to reverse tax incentives that encourage outsourcing and discourage repatriating jobs to the U.S.
Where Romney has called for allowing the foreclosure crisis to run its course, Obama said that "responsible homeowners shouldn't have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief," before introducing a mortgage modification plan to Congress that will give "every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year...by refinancing at historically low interest rates," which was met with silence by the GOP.
Perhaps most famously, Romney has suggested that public appeals for addressing inequality and bringing equity to the tax code evince envy on the part of advocates who have pressed those issues into the national dialogue.
"When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it's not because they envy the rich," Obama retorted. "It's because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don't need and the country can't afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference - like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet."
Republicans grimaced at this, too, as they did when he gave policy shape to the Buffett Rule, "If you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent in taxes."
GOP leaders spent Tuesday -- and really the last several months -- preparing for Obama to take this turn.
On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Obama's "goal isn't to conquer the nation's problems. It's to conquer Republicans."
"This election's going to be a referendum on the president's economic policies," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Tuesday.
That's the battle for public perception that will play out over the next several months -- between Obama's calls for fairness and Republican reminders of people's current woes, implicitly Obama's fault they'll say. If Republicans lose that battle they'll find themselves flailing in the general election with nothing forward looking to offer voters. That's the bet Obama made tonight.