President Obama took to the road Friday to sell his plan to avoid a looming series of tax increases and spending cuts, using a campaign-style event to accuse Republicans of holding the middle class “hostage” during deadlocked negotiations.

“It’s unacceptable for a handful of Republicans in Congress to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage,” Obama said at a toy manufacturing plant in a suburb of Philadelphia. “Let’s give families all across American the sense of security they deserve this holiday season.”

Obama focused almost exclusively on taxes, the area of most contention in the “fiscal-cliff” fight. The president, employing a litany of holiday metaphors, called on Congress to extend the so-called Bush income tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 annually.

“If Congress does nothing, every family in America will automatically see their income taxes go up on Jan. 1,” he said. “I’m assuming that doesn’t sound good to you. That’s like the lump of coal you get for Christmas — a Scrooge Christmas.”

Obama spoke at the Rodon Group manufacturing plant, which produces K’NEX toys and Angry Birds Building Sets, among other products.

The White House says income taxes would increase $2,200 next year for the average family of four unless a deficit-reduction deal is struck by the end of the year. Republicans counter that tax rates should not be increased on anybody amid slow economic recovery.

Obama’s appeal came a day after Republicans rejected an initial White House offer on avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff, a blueprint that contained few, if any, concessions to conservatives.

Mirroring the president’s budget proposal, the offer called for $1.6 trillion in tax increases over the next decade and $400 billion in reductions to entitlement spending. The blueprint also would give the president the authority to raise the nation’s borrowing limit without congressional approval.

Republicans dismissed the tone of Obama’s rhetoric on Friday, saying the president should focus more on negotiating with lawmakers than selling his agenda to the public.

“It was not a serious proposal,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Right now, we’re almost nowhere.”