President Obama, on a swing through crucial swing states three months before Election Day, told a packed college gymnasium here today they had a clear choice to make: return to a failed trickle down philosophy, or a middle-out economic growth strategy.
Obama arrived at Rollins College on Thursday afternoon after making a stop at Lechonera El Barrio, a quick-service Dominican restaurant on North Semoran Boulevard, which is located near the Romney Victory Office in Orlando.
Obama spent about 30 minutes chatting with owners, employees and patrons in the café before greeting a crowd gathered in the parking lot.
Owner Rafael Vasquez said he was very proud and excited to serve the president.
"There's a lot of big restaurants in the area, and he picked mine," Vasquez said.
The president ordered yellow rice, roast pork and Tostones.
More than 50 children from a church camp next door heard the commotion and ran out to meet the president.
"I didn't think he was going to be so tall," 8-year-old Daniel Harrison said.
During his speech at Rollins, the president focused on the economy and tax cuts for the middle class.
"We grow this economy not from the top down but the middle out," he said, after being serenaded to Happy Birthday two days before he turns 51.
The crowd of about 2,400 also broke out several times in chants of "four more years," even as the president tried to explain why the last four has included relatively low growth and stubbornly high unemployment rates, making his reelection that much more difficult.
But, the president repeatedly referred to the financial crisis that began before he was elected.
He reminded them of "the worst economic crisis of our lifetime, a crisis that robbed too many of our neighbors of their jobs, their homes, their savings."
He cited a new study from a nonpartisan policy group released Wednesday.
"They found folks making more than $3 million a year would get a tax cut of almost a quarter of a million dollars [under Romney's plan,]" the president said. "Mr. Romney claims he's going to give this tax cut and bring down the deficits, then the question becomes who do you think gets the bill for this $250,000 tax cut?"
"We do," the crowd replied.
"This is a smart crowd," the president continued.
"He's asking you to pay more so people like him pay less, so people like me pay less," Obama said. "They have tried to sell us this trickle down fairy dust before... It is not a plan to move our economy forward it takes us back to a place we do not need to be."
The president said he's not going to pay for a massive tax city for people who don't need it by "gutting" programs for the middle class.
"The choice could not be more significant, in some ways more important than 2008. A choice about two fundamentally different visions of America," the president said.
Obama was scheduled to speak at Rollins last month, but the trip was canceled because of the mass shooting at a Colorado theater.
Many who are employed in Winter Park said they were going to avoid the area because of the crush of people.
Kevin Libran, an Orlando pipe fitter, worked half a day on Thursday, saying he was only be on Fairbanks Avenue until lunchtime.
"We're going to park further than we are now to get to our job sites, and there's going to be a little shuttle bus to pick us up to get to the job site," he said.
Others, however, looked forward to the visit.
"I think it's a great opportunity for the college and the area to have him here," said Lindsay Clarke, an employee at Rollins College.
Watch Local 6 News for more on this story.