Obama and Romney offer double vision

Combination picture of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama giving speeches Image copyright AP
Image caption Two out of two major presidential candidates agree: it's about economic policies

President Barack Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney travelled to the critical swing state of Ohio to talk about a vision.

But the vision they wanted to focus on was not their own, but their opponent's.

Both men were polite, reasonably fair in their portrayal of each other's plans, and didn't opt for cheap parody.

At one point Mr Obama looked irritated when some in the audience seemed to think he was mocking Mr Romney and appeared to be waiting for the punchline.

The American media has decided the past 10 days were a disaster for Mr Obama, and despite the call for some perspective by more grown-up colleagues, this was seen as an important speech.

While this was not billed as a campaign comeback or relaunch, the White House did suggest it was the argument that would frame the race until election day.

It perhaps did that, but in the desire to be comprehensive it felt more like an assembly of chunks of raw speaking notes. It was not something that would fire 'em up in the bleachers (stands, for our British readers).

At about one-quarter of the length of Mr Obama's remarks, Mr Romney's speech was effectively his now-familiar stump speech, again setting out his main arguments against the president.

He said President Obama's prescription over the last four years had been stimulus, so-called "Obamacare" and clean energy. All had failed.

Sober speeches like these don't make for vibrant viewing. Both will look okay once they are reduced to 20-second TV soundbites.

But they do underline that both men agree this election is about a clear choice on America's economic direction.

The president said Mr Romney would go back to the previous eight years of trickle-down economics, tax cuts, cuts in government spending and getting rid of red tape. All had failed.

The worry for America must be that both men are right.