Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
If Ohio is a battleground, the candidates have arrived ready for a war.
President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered campaign speeches in Central Ohio this week, marking the first time both of them had been to the area since spring.
The opponents spoke to comparable crowd sizes but distinctly different demographics. At Capital University Tuesday, Obama spoke to about 3,300 people primarily about student loans and education issues. Many attendees were students of the university.
Saturday Romney spoke to roughly 5,000 people at Green Village Park in Powell, Ohio, a small city about 30 minutes away from campus. Romney spoke mostly on job creation and small business. Attendees were generally older than the majority of those at the Obama rally.
Alongside Romney was his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan in their first Ohio appearance together. Ryan advocated that Romney’s experience in the private sector is proof that he would be a good job creator and help improve the U.S. economy in ways that he said Obama has not.
“This is a man who started small business,” Ryan said. “This is a man who turned around struggling businesses.”
Ryan said that Obama, like many politicians, is more concerned about his next election than the next generation of Americans. He said that under his and Romney’s administration, they will lower the national debt.
“We have nearly one in six Americans today that are living in poverty … President Obama’s ideas aren’t working,” Ryan said. “Hope and change has now become attack and blame … and you know what, we aren’t going to fall for it.”
While at Capital, Obama spoke to the crowd about a different kind of debt, the debt millions of students nationwide pay on student loans.
“Over the past two decades, tuitions and fees at America’s colleges have more than doubled. The average student who borrows now graduates with about $46,000 in student loan debt,” he said.
Obama recalled a statement from Romney when he had been in Ohio previously, and the advice he gave to a student who inquired about how he would pay for college. Romney told the student to borrow money from his parents or “shop around” to find a good price. Obama criticized him during this Tuesday visit for not mentioning student loan programs or education grants available. Obama said the pains of dealing with student debt were all too real.
“We (Michelle Obama and himself) did not finish paying off our student loans until about eight years ago. Think about that,” he said. “I’m only standing before you because of the chance that my education gave me, so I can tell you with some experience that making higher education more affordable for our young people is something I have a personal stake in.”
Obama accused Romney of not wanting to invest in “you plans,” and that all young people should have the opportunity to succeed regardless of their financial situation.
“I don’t want them (young people) to be prevented just because their family was hit hard by the recession,” he said. “That’s not what America’s about.”
Obama’s used this criticism toward Romney to attempt to draw a distinct difference between himself and his GOP opponent in how they relate to the middle class.
Romney hit back during his Saturday visit, telling the crowd that the president “says marvelous things, he just doesn’t do them.”
Romney criticized the president for a comment he made during a July 13 campaign stop in Virginia earlier this summer where Obama told a crowd that small business owners “didn’t build that” on their own. Romney used the quote during his speech to draw a contrast between his own history in business and Obama’s lack of history.
“He doesn’t understand what it is that makes American economy so powerful,” he said. “I’m convinced that you’re going to see by virtue of this administration this economy roaring back.”
Obama’s quote about business said that behind a small business owner is all the people who helped them along the way deserving of recognition, such as teachers and the American system that allows people to thrive. Romney used an analogy Saturday, and said that when a child makes the honor roll, parents should congratulate them, not the bus driver who took them to school.
The candidates spent time talking about their plans for the future, and bashing each other’s, to crowds of Central Ohio supporters last week, which made one thing clear to Ohio State students: their voice matters in this election.
Living in the capital city of a swing state during a presidential election, some students have noticed the attention the area has gotten from the candidates. Chris Kiriaka, a second-year in economics, said he thinks Ohio will be a major player in the upcoming election
“I don’t think there’s a swing state that has more uncertainty than Ohio this year. Perhaps even more than Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.”
According to Associated Press polls released Thursday, Obama still leads 50-44 in the Ohio polls. The random survey of Ohio residents was taken earlier this month, and Kiriaka said it’s shows just how close the race for Ohio is.
“It solidifies that Ohio is a swing state, it is a state that does have a political divide, and that’s one of the reasons it’s so valuable in the electoral college,” he said. “It shows that many Ohioans have not been overly impressed with Obama’s policies, and so some of Obama’s voters from 2008 are at least considering switching to Romney in 2012.”
Corey Hamilton, a fourth-year in public affairs, said Ohio is a good indicator of the nation overall, with white- and blue-collar workers, and people from all income levels.
“It’s a great representation of the poor, and how the economy’s doing, and so many things,” he said. “It’s in the Midwest, it’s not too far west, not too far right, not too far left.”
Ben Keith contributed to this article.