CLEVELAND -- Making his final stop on a whirlwind two-day swing state tour, President Obama fired up a crowd of 12,000 people tonight on the tarmac at Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport.
With Air Force One parked behind him and a cool breeze blowing off nearby Lake Erie, a clearly hoarse-sounding Obama implored the crowd to take advantage of Ohio's early voting option, which began Oct. 2.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Obama said, he cast his own early vote in Chicago.
"I can't tell you who I voted for, because it's a secret ballot," he joked to the crowd. "But Michelle told me she voted for me." The Cleveland stop came after a day of heavy campaigning in Florida, Virginia, and the President casting his ballot in Illinois. He is said to be the first sitting President to cast a ballot via early voting.
"I'm asking you for your vote and I'm asking you to vote early," he said.
Mr. Obama told the crowd he deserved their support over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, because under Mr. Romney's plan, "folks at the top play by a different set of rules than you do."
Mr. Romney was also campaigning for Ohio's 18 electoral votes today; he began a tour of Ohio in Worthington, then headed for a concert rally at Defiance High School's football stadium. On Friday, he will close out the tour with a stop in North Canton; Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan plans a solo two-day tour of New Philadelphia, Zanesville, Circleville,Yellow Springs, Celina, Findlay, and Marion.
In his remarks, Mr. Obama compared Mr. Romney's policies to those of of George W. Bush.
"We tried that philosophy in the decade before I took office," he said.
Mr. Obama also repeated his oft-cited bailout of the U.S. auto industry.
"If Mitt Romney had been President when the American auto industry was on the verge of collapse, we might not have an auto industry today," he said. He continued, "I wasn't going to let Detroit go bankrupt, or Toledo go bankrupt, or Lordstown go bankrupt."
LaDeidra Ballard, a social worker from the Cleveland suburb of Shaker Heights, said she was at the event to support the President. She said she has already supported him at the ballot box by early voting.
"I believe he cares about the people," she said, standing outside in line several hours before Mr. Obama was scheduled to speak, and sporting a 'Change we can Believe in' T-shirt. "That's more than I can say about the other person running."
Robert Henning, of Oberlin, described himself as an Evangelical Christian and retired pastor who supports Mr. Obama.
"I think he is working to make sure tax policy is fair and make sure everyone pays their fair share."
President Obama is expected back in Ohio on Monday when he will appear with former President Bill Clinton in Youngstown. According to information from the campaign, tonight's speech marked the 33nd time the President has traveled to Ohio since the start of his Presidency, the 18th time in 2012.
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