The president said Romney would set back the middle class by supporting deep cuts in federal spending, big tax cuts for the wealthy and the repeal of Obama’s landmark health-care legislation.
“Ohio, I’ll tell you what,” Obama told a crowd of about 14,000 supporters in Columbus. “We cannot give him that chance. Not now. Not with so much at stake. This is not just another election. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and we’ve been through too much to turn back now.”
Obama’s reelection team billed the two rallies Saturday as the official start of the general-election campaign and an opportunity to gin up the kind of enthusiasm that helped give the 2008 election its historic sheen. At both rallies, the effort to recapture the magic was evident — in video montages, in volunteer-led chants of “Fired up, ready to go!” and in Obama’s speech.
Both Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, who introduced the president at the events, received roaring receptions. At several points, the crowds interrupted the Obamas and burst out into cheers of “Four more years!”
Despite the enthusiasm, the events took place against the backdrop of a sluggish economy that is far less favorable for Obama than in 2008. As if to sum up the contrast between now and 2008, the Columbus Dispatch greeted Obama’s arrival in Ohio with this headline: “Job numbers don’t mirror hope.”
Romney’s campaign responded to Obama’s speeches by accusing him of trying to change the subject.
“No matter how many lofty campaign speeches President Obama gives, the fact remains that American families are struggling on his watch — to pay their bills, find a job and keep their homes,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
The president’s electoral challenges were also evident in the unfilled arena he addressed at Ohio State University — a situation the campaign scrambled to remedy after boasting early in the day that both rallies would draw overflow crowds. Before Obama arrived in Ohio, organizers redirected the audience to fill the arena floor and other sections that would be visible on TV. As a result, the top tier of the 20,000-seat arena was nearly empty.
Campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said the Ohio rally still drew four times as many supporters as any event Romney has held this election cycle. At Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, 8,000 people filled a smaller arena.