COLUMBUS — President Barack Obama today set out to reignite the enthusiasm he's seen before at Ohio State University and even had buses waiting to shuttle voters to the local Early Voting Center.
While speaking on campus before a crowd of 15,000, he took on Republican Mitt Romney over foreign policy, tax policy, and proposed budget cuts in a way that some of his strongest supporters wished he had done last week during his first debate.
He blasted Mr. Romney for saying that he wouldn’t allow his proposed 20 percent across the board tax cut to worsen the federal deficit.
“Turns out, most folks don’t like that idea either, so just last week when we were on stage together, Gov. Romney decided that instead of changing his plan, he’d just pretend it didn’t exist,” the Democratic president said. “What $5 trillion tax cut? I don’t know anything about a $5 trillion tax cut.
“Pay no attention to that tax cut under the carpet, behind the curtains.”
As his campaign has in a current ad, he also remarked on Mr. Romney’s comments that he’d cut federal funding for public TV.
“For all you moms and kids out there, don’t worry,” Mr. Obama said. “Somebody’s finally getting tough on Big Bird. Who knew he was driving our deficit?
“He’s decided we’re going after Big Bird. Elmo’s making a run for the border. Oscar’s hiding out in a trash can. Gov. Romney wants to let Wall Street run wild again, but he’s going to bring down the hammer on Seasame Street.”
After the President’s speech, buses shuttled students and other members of the crowd to the Franklin County Early Voting Center where musician will.i.am was expected to perform after also doing so during the President’s event.
The events were in part designed to take advantage of that last few hours of what’s known as Golden Week, the period in which would-be voters can register and then immediately cast an early ballot.
The youth vote is squarely in the campaign’s crosshairs as Mr. Obama continued his series of rallies on university campuses, including Bowling Green State, Kent State, and Cleveland State in Ohio in recent days. Today’s rally marked Mr. Obama’s 15th visit to Ohio this year and his third to the Ohio State campus, not counting unannounced stops on his way to somewhere else.
Ohioans have been voting since Oct. 2, and today marked the close of registration for the Nov. 6 election. Mr. Romney was also in battleground Ohio today with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a rally in Cuyahoga Falls, and he’ll be in Mount Vernon, Delaware, and Sidney on Wednesday.
Mr. Obama’s rally follows what was considered his lackluster performance during last week’s first presidential debate against Mr. Romney, and it has resulted in a bump in polls for the Republican.
But the rally also follows a drop in the nation’s unemployment rate to below the stubborn 8 percent mark to 7.8 percent for the first time since Mr. Obama took office in 2009. He was appearing in a state where the rate is even lower at 7.2 percent.
“The more I reflect on the debate, the more amazed I am at the differences I heard in that debate,” said Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich during a conference call with reporters. “For the life of me I can’t figure out what President Obama was doing. He couldn’t figure out how to defend his own record and certainly didn’t offer any vision on what he wants to do…
“I’m seeing a greater intensity among Republicans and a greater willingness to get out and participate than we’re seeing with Democrats,” he said. “Number two, there’s no doubt that independents are taking a second look.”
Ed Nagle, president and chief executive officer of the Nagle Cos. trucking business, said his industry cannot afford another four years of Mr. Obama.
“In 2008, we employed 80 truck drivers and this year we now have 40,” Mr. Nagle said. “The policies and non-policies led our general economy to continued disaster and has been really detrimental to our business as well as the trucking industry.”
In addition to concerns over health care costs, he blamed Mr. Obama for rising fuel prices that cut trucking companies can’t fully pass onto consumers and for policies backing unions that he said have reduced efficiency in the industry.