COLUMBUS — It was President Obama’s last chance to persuade Ohioans that he deserves another four years.
One last time to run down the list as he has in dozens of visits to Ohio this election year: the new health-care law, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the auto bailout, 25 consecutive months of job growth, and the end of the war in Iraq.
“When you make this choice, you have to remember this isn’t just about policies,” he told an enthusiastic estimated crowd of 15,500 inside Nationwide Arena. “It’s also about trust. After four years you know me by now. You may not agree with every single decision I’ve made. That’s OK because Michelle doesn’t either.
“You may be frustrated sometimes at the pace of change I promised you. So am I,” Mr. Obama said. “But Ohio, you know that I mean what I say and I say what I mean.”
The rally with rock star Bruce Springsteen and rapper Jay-Z as his opening acts was as much about closing the deal with the few remaining voters who haven’t made up their minds as making sure that those who support the President actually vote.
Brad Johnson, a financial planner from nearby Grandview Heights is one of those last-minute undecided voters. He said he hasn’t gotten the information he needs from the flood of TV ads directed at him and probably won’t make a final decision until today.
He heard Mr. Romney speak about a month ago, and he gave Mr. Obama a chance to seal the deal on Monday.
“I really wanted to hear their final closing arguments, because I feel they’ll probably put the best information across in the last few days — [fewer] general talking points and more direct ... ” he said. “I’m fiscally very conservative, and I really want to make sure that he says he’s going to cut spending.”
Mr. Obama did say he would cut the budget deficit but in a “responsible” way, which he says includes asking wealthier Americans to pay more in taxes, something Mr. Romney opposes.
With polls still showing the race a statistical tie, the candidates have left little to chance, crisscrossing between battleground states but always coming back to all-important Ohio. Mr. Obama has been here every day for the last four days while Mr. Romney has been here three of the last four days, counting his rally Monday in Columbus.
On election eve, Mr. Obama hit Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa, a block of states and a combined 38 electoral votes that he carried in 2008 and that he hopes will serve as a firewall against Mr. Romney reaching the 270 needed to win the race even if he should pick up North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida.
He again cast Mr. Romney in the role of a Bush-era throwback pursuing tax cuts for wealthier Americans while casting himself as a champion for the middle class.
“I’ve got the scars to prove it,” he said “I’ve got gray hair to prove it. You’ve had my back in that fight, and after all we’ve been through, we can’t give up on it now. We’ve got more work to do.”
Later on Monday, a few miles away, Republican opponent Mitt Romney would make his case that Mr. Obama has failed to deliver on the “hope and change” promised in 2008, presiding over four years of high unemployment, sluggish economic recovery, and stalemates with Congress.
“[Mitt Romney] will deliver real change for a real recovery, creating 12 million new jobs with rising take-home pay and a better future for all Americans,” said Romney spokesman Chris Maloney.
Between songs, Mr. Springsteen presented a mock campaign theme he wrote for the President. But when he came time to describe Mr. Obama’s disappointing first debate performance, he couldn’t find the words.
Nikia Jones, a Columbus stay-at-home mom of three children, voted in person a couple of weeks ago for Mr. Obama.
“Look at this crowd,” she said. “I was afraid of long lines and everything else, so I wanted to make sure that nothing was stopping me. I didn’t want weather to be a factor. I wanted to make sure my vote counted.”
She never considered Mr. Romney.
“I couldn't vote for a president who tells women what they can do with their own bodies,” she said. “I believe in Planned Parenthood. I have kids. I believe in early education for kids, and he wants to get rid of that. I believe in birth control, and I believe that rape is rape, so I can’t vote for Romney.”
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