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First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at Westerville Central High  First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at Westerville Central High School near Columbus. She said Tuesday that her husband understands struggles and has the back of the middle class.
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at Westerville Central High School near Columbus. She said Tuesday that her husband understands struggles and has the back of the middle class.
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Published: 7/24/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

First Lady campaigns in Ohio

2,000 turn out in Westerville

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — As her husband's campaign tries to make the case in television ads that Mitt Romney is out of touch with the average American, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Ohio Republican territory on Tuesday to argue that it's Barack Obama who has the back of the middle class.

She made the contrast without ever mentioning Mr. Romney's name.

"Barack Obama knows what it means when a family struggles. This is not a hypothetical for him," Mrs. Obama said before an estimated crowd of 2,000 at Westerville Central High School north of Columbus.

"And like me and like so many of you, Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it," she said. "And he believes that when you work hard and you've done well and, as you walk through the doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and give other people a chance to succeed as well. That's what the American dream is about, and more than anything else, that's what's at stake in this election."

The First Lady sought to ignite enthusiasm among Obama volunteers that polls have suggested isn't there to the same degree it was in 2008.

"We're doing this because we believe that everyone in this country should have a fair shot," Mrs. Obama said. "That means that all our kids should have good schools, all of our kids should be able be able to attend college without a mountain of debt.… Everyone should do their fair share. That means that teachers and firefighters shouldn't pay higher taxes than billionaires and millionaires."

She pointed to some of the more popular provisions of the President's health-care reforms, reforms that prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, allow people to stay on their parents' policies until age 26, and require insurers to cover preventive care for women at no extra cost.

"This November, we get to decide: Do we want these reforms to be repealed, or do we want people we love to have the care they need?" she said. "This is the choice in this election."

Mr. Romney has pledged to repeal the health-care law that Mr. Obama argues was at least partly based on the former governor's own law in Massachusetts.

Romney spokesman Chris Maloney took Mrs. Obama to task for the sentiment that her husband can relate to average Americans.

"Due to President Obama's failed policies, 425,000 Ohioans are being forced to relate to the added burden of supporting themselves and their families without a job," he said. "Barack Obama's frequent fund-raising and campaign trips hinder his ability to relate to Ohio workers and have clearly taken a toll on his ability to fix our struggling national economy."

While Mrs. Obama may not have wanted to talk about Mr. Romney, Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman, who grew up in Toledo, was ready to do it for her. He drew boos from the crowd when he said Republican Gov. John Kasich was trying to take credit for Ohio's stronger-than-average economic recovery and that Mr. Romney's policies would not have saved the auto industry that has helped to fuel Ohio's recovery.

"Mitt Romney is not the devil," he said. "He doesn't have two horns on his head. He doesn't have a tail coming out of his backside. That's true. We should not demonize Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney is simply wrong for Ohio. Mitt Romney is wrong for America. Mitt Romney is wrong for the middle class. Mitt Romney is wrong for families in Ohio."

Daniel Hartnett, a Westerville Democrat, moved in from Virginia two years ago and is seeing for the first time the attention Ohio gets in presidential elections. He's one of those volunteers whom Mrs. Obama wants to keep knocking on doors, as he did last weekend.

"There aren't a lot of undecideds out there," he said. "That's what I found. There seem to be a lot of Obama people and anti-Obama people. I didn't get a ‘I'm a real strong Romney supporter' out of anybody.

"The question was not, does anybody want Mitt Romney to be the president," Mr. Hartnett said. "The question was do people want or not want Barack Obama to be the president."

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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