President Obama is taking his re-election fight directly to the GOP. (More)

While Mitt “Etch-a-Sketch” Romney continues to struggle to defeat Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum in the GOP Presidential primaries, President Obama has spent the last couple of weeks making clear that Romney will face a far tougher opponent in the general election if he becomes the GOP nominee. This effort by the Obama campaign has involved reminding voters of the success that the Obama Administration has achieved, aggressively attacking the dangerous conservative economic vision for our country, and challenging GOP attacks on him.

First, at the end of March, President Obama gave a stirring speech listing some of the substantial progressive victories that we have achieved over the past three years. This speech helps remind progressives and other voters that while the past three years have certainly held their fair share of disappointments and setbacks, we have also seen major progress on numerous issues. As President Obama said:

And here’s what I want to report – that in three years, because of what so many of you did in 2008, we’ve begun to see what change looks like. We’ve begun to see what change looks like.

Change is the first bill I signed into law – a law that says women deserve an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work, because I want our daughters treated just like our sons.

Change is the decision we made to rescue an auto industry that was on the verge of collapse, even when some said let Detroit go bankrupt. One million jobs were at stake, so we weren’t going to let that happen. And today, GM is back on top as the world’s number one automaker, reported the highest profits in 100 years – 200,000 new jobs over the last two and a half years. The American auto industry is back and it’s making cars that are more fuel-efficient. So that’s helping the environment, even as we’re putting people to work.

Change is the decision we made to stop waiting for Congress to do something about our oil addiction. That’s why we finally raised our fuel-efficiency standards. By the middle of the next decade, we will be driving American-made cars that get almost 55 miles to a gallon – saves the typical family more than $8,000 at the pump. That’s what change is.

Change is the fight we won to stop handing $60 billion in taxpayer giveaways to the banks who were processing student loans. We decided let’s give those student loans directly to students – which meant we could make college more affordable to young people who need it. That’s what change is. That happened because of you.

And, yes, change is the health care reform that we passed after over a century of trying. Reform that will finally ensure that in the United States of America, no one will go broke just because they get sick. Already – already 2.5 million young people now have health insurance who didn’t have it before because this law lets them stay on their parent’s plan. Already millions of seniors are paying less for their prescription drugs because of this law. Already, Americans can’t be denied or dropped by their insurance company when they need care the most. Already, they’re getting preventive care that they didn’t have before. That’s happening right now.

Change is the fact that for the first time in history, you don’t have to hide who you love in order to serve the country you love, because we ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Change is the fact that for the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. We refocused our efforts on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. And thanks to the brave men and women in uniform, al Qaeda is weaker than it has ever been. Osama bin Laden is no more. We’ve begun to transition in Afghanistan to put them in the lead, and start bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. That’s what change is.

For additional progressive victories under the Obama Administration, see our list covering 2009 and 2010, or this list of the top 50 things accomplished by President Obama.

Second, President Obama gave a speech last week describing just how regressive the recent budget proposal from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is. Ryan’s budget, which Romney has described as “marvelous,” would abolish Medicare and replace it with inadequate vouchers, cut 14 to 27 million Americans off of Medicaid, and eviscerate most other government programs, while increasing military spending and giving millionaires an average additional tax cut of $256,000 per year over what the W. Bush Administration already gave away to the rich. The Ryan budget would also increase the deficit, especially given that it relies on $4.6 trillion in tax loophole closures to offset the tax giveaways for the wealthy but does not identify a single loophole that would purportedly be closed.

In a great speech worth reading or watching in its entirety, President Obama took on the Ryan budget head-on, framing the issue as not just one about how to restore fiscal balance, but instead as:

a Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism. It is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who’s willing to work for it; a place where prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top, but grows outward from the heart of the middle class. And by gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last – education and training, research and development, our infrastructure – it is a prescription for decline.

President Obama then outlined the contrast between the two parties on two key issues, health care and taxes, explaining that:

Instead of saving money by shifting costs to seniors, like the congressional Republican plan proposes, our approach would lower the cost of health care throughout the entire system. It goes after excessive subsidies to prescription drug companies. It gets more efficiency out of Medicaid without gutting the program. It asks the very wealthiest seniors to pay a little bit more. It changes the way we pay for health care – not by procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to improve their results.

And it slows the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission – a commission not made up of bureaucrats from government or insurance companies, but doctors and nurses and medical experts and consumers, who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best way to reduce unnecessary health care spending while protecting access to the care that the seniors need.

We also have a much different approach when it comes to taxes – an approach that says if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t afford to spend trillions more on tax cuts for folks like me, for wealthy Americans who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them, and that the country cannot afford. At a time when the share of national income flowing to the top one percent of people in this country has climbed to levels last seen in the 1920s, those same folks are paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years. As both I and Warren Buffett have pointed out many times now, he’s paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. That is not fair. It is not right.

And the choice is really very simple. If you want to keep these tax rates and deductions in place – or give even more tax breaks to the wealthy, as the Republicans in Congress propose – then one of two things happen: Either it means higher deficits, or it means more sacrifice from the middle class. Seniors will have to pay more for Medicare. College students will lose some of their financial aid. Working families who are scraping by will have to do more because the richest Americans are doing less. I repeat what I’ve said before: That is not class warfare, that is not class envy, that is math.

Finally, the Obama campaign has directly taken on the issue of rising gas prices, which Republicans have baselessly argued President Obama is responsible for. In its latest advertisement, the Obama campaign has detailed how his Administration has worked to break our addiction to oil while accurately identifying Romney as the “Candidate of Big Oil.”

While President Obama has an early lead over Romney of 49-45% overall, and 51-42% in swing states, we cannot become complacent if we want to win. Seven months until election day is an eternity in politics, the media will of course be cheerleading for the GOP and do little to call Romney out when he tries to Etch-a-Sketch his way back to the center, and 8%+ unemployment is not a good starting point for any re-election campaign. So it is critical that we all take the fight to the GOP over the next seven months. It is nice to see that President Obama is already doing so.