Moving quickly to capitalize on encouraging polls, President Barack Obama urged supporters — especially the young — to get out and vote when early voting starts in Ohio next week.
Before a crowd of students and supporters at Kent State University’s Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center, Obama repeatedly stressed the importance of voter turnout.
Three times during his speech, he cut off crowds who started booing when he talked about his Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s policies.
“Don’t boo,” he said. “Vote.”
Each time the crowd of about 6,600 burst into thunderous applause.
Rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd or those who took to the stage to speak on the president’s behalf.
“We’ve seen the change and we’ve been the change,” said Brian Staul, a Kent senior who introduced Obama. “I need everyone in here to vote because he needs everyone here to vote.”
Staul, an Obama campaign volunteer, said he first cast a vote for president in 2008.
In that election, Obama had strong support among young people, Staul said, and young voters still are excited.
Also pumping up the crowd was U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who is being challenged by Marisha Agana for Ohio’s 13th District.
Ryan pointed to Romney’s recent comments that 47 percent of Americans “… are dependent on government ... who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
Ryan told supporters a vote for Obama and Democrats would mean an end to divisive politics over income, race or gender.
“We are not going to let them divide this country anymore,” he said. “We’re going to make sure everyone has an opportunity — a hand up, not a handout.”
The president took up that theme in his speech.
Recalling his pledge at his inauguration in 2009 to work on behalf of all Americans, he said, “I still believe we are not as divided as our politics suggests.”
He also talked about his policies on the economy, education and health care.
After touting his support for a rescue for the auto industry — legislation Romney opposed — Obama responded to Republican campaign ads criticizing his administration for not taking a tougher stand against what is described as China’s unfair trade policies.
Obama told students he has been much tougher than the Republican administration of former President George W. Bush on China and will continue to be.
“We’ve brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two,” the president said.
Obama’s call for more opportunities to pay for college drew waves of applause from the crowd, which included many students.
More than 18,000 Kent State students received federal Pell Grants in 2010, according to a campaign news release issued before the speech.
Describing a college education as a “gateway to the middle class,” he said: “It was the only reason I’m standing here. Same thing for Michelle (Obama) and same thing for a lot of you.”
Obama said Romney is out of touch when it comes to policies that help students, families and middle-class people get by.
The president also criticized Romney’s promise to reduce the deficit while rolling back taxes, saying the Republicans won’t provide any specifics about their proposals.
“The reason they don’t do it is because it doesn’t work,” he said.
Obama repeated his promise to keep taxes low for those earning less than $250,000 a year. But he said taxes on the wealthy should be restored to 1990s levels.
The president also stressed his commitment to preserve Medicare and Medicaid, along with other social welfare programs.
Kay Tuttle, of Wadsworth, said those social programs are of great importance to her and other senior citizens.
Tuttle, 68, who traveled with friends to Kent to hear Obama, said she volunteers at the Wadsworth senior center and sees the value of those programs.
“There’s a lot of people who need these extra programs to feed themselves and pay their bills,” she said.
Tuttle said she believes Obama has advanced important initiatives, including health care reform.
“I think he’s done a really good job considering he hasn’t had the Republican Congress back him up on anything,” she said. “I think Washington needs to come together and think about the people, not themselves.”
Contact Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.