COLUMBUS, OHIO- President Obama kicked off his campaign with a rally in what is considered a must-win battleground state. In his first official rally of the 2012 campaign, the president ripped Mitt Romney before a crowd of about 14,000 at The Ohio State University's basketball arena.
After the university's pep band warmed up the crowd with a rendition of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," Obama set the tone by comparing his policies to those of Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans.
Romney "doesn't seem to understand that maximizing profits by whatever means necessary, whether through layoffs or outsourcing or tax avoidance, union busting, might not always be good for the average American or for the American economy," the president said. "Why else would he want to cut his own taxes while raising them for 18 million Americans?
"My opponent said it was 'tragic' to end the war in Iraq. He said he wouldn't set a timeline for ending the war in Afghanistan."
He remarked that Romney "won't tell us how he'd pay for his new, $5 trillion tax cut - a tax cut that gives an average of $250,000 to every millionaire in this country.
"This time, they want even deeper cuts to things like education and Medicare, and research and technology. This time, they want to give banks and insurance companies even more power to do as they please. And now, after a long and spirited primary, Republicans in Congress have found a nominee for President who has promised to rubber-stamp this agenda if he gets the chance."
Obama then rebutted Mitt Romney's assertion that corporations are democratic. "The true measure of our prosperity is more than just a running tally of every balance sheet and quarterly profit report. I don't care how many ways you try to explain it: Corporations aren't people. People are people.
Despite drawing stark contrasts between the GOP agenda and his own policies, Obama kept the unifying tone seen in the 2008 campaign. "We came together [in 2008] because we believe that in America, your success shouldn't be determined by the circumstances of your birth. If you're willing to work hard, you should be able to find a good job...no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what your last name is.
"We came together in 2008 because our country had strayed from these basic values. A record surplus was squandered on tax cuts for people who didn't need them and weren't even asking for them. Two wars were being waged on a credit card. Wall Street speculators reaped huge profits by making bets with other people's money. Manufacturing left our shores. A shrinking number of Americans did fantastically well, while most people struggled.
"I want to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs and profits overseas, and start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America. That's the choice in this election.
"So now is not the time to cut these investments to pay for another $4 billion giveaway to the oil companies. Now is the time to end the subsidies for an industry that's rarely been more profitable. Let's double down on a clean energy future that's never been more promising -- for our economy, and for our security, and for the safety of our planet. That's why I'm running for president. That's the choice in this election."
The president then reminded Ohioans of progress made during his first four years in office, including healthcare reform, international peace, and civil rights.
"As long as I'm President of the United States, I will never allow Medicare to be turned into a voucher that would end the program as we know it. We will not go back to the days when our citizens spent their golden years at the mercy of private insurance companies.
"For the first time in nine years, there will be no Americans fighting in Iraq.
"We're not returning to the days when you could be kicked out of the United States military just because of who you are or who you love. That would be wrong for our national security, and it would be a betrayal of our values."
OSU student Michael Flanagan echoed the president's message on LGBT rights, telling the crowd, "As a gay student, I feel for the first time in my life that the president is fighting for us all." Referring to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Flanagan added, "That hateful policy died in September on my birthday."
"When people ask you what this election is about, you tell them it is still about hope. You tell them it is still about change."
Obama's local ally, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, was on hand to lend his support. After lambasting Republicans for attacking voting rights, women's rights, and collective bargaining rights, Brown vowed to "fight alongside the president for every job, every single day, every single way we know how.
"We should never have to choose between a woman getting a mamogram and a student getting a Stafford loan." Mr. Brown, perhaps the most outpoken pro-labor senator in, Congress, is facing a tough reelection bid against Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.
The president's admonition against rolling back voter and labor rights is especially prescient in Ohio, where the GOP state legislature was rebuked citizens' veto in 2011 on a union-busting law in 2011, and where an effort is underway overturn the GOP-backed voter suppression law using the same state constitutional citizens' veto. No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning the state.
1st photo: Obama speaks during the Ohio campaign rally. Brooke LaValley/AP & Columbus Dispatch
2nd photo: Mr. and Mrs. Obama at the campaign rally. Zach Moore/PW