Help from the White House
Published: Monday, October 18, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
With Democrats across the state trailing their Republican rivals as Election Day nears, President Barack Obama visited the Oval Sunday night attempting to spark the same passion in voters that helped land him in the Oval office.
The 2008 promise of change caused students — Sunday's targeted audience and some of his most enthusiastic supporters — to support Obama. In a voice that became increasingly hoarse during a 27-minute speech, he said change happens "inch by inch, and believe me it's not easy."
"This was never about putting a president in the White House, this is about a movement of change that lasts a long time," Obama said.
An estimated crowd of 35,000 attended the rally, according to OSU Police Chief Paul Denton.
The crowd became more eager to hear Obama as Democratic speakers — Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, former Sen. John Glenn, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and Gov. Ted Strickland — aimed to inspire students to vote for their party in 16 days.
"The world's watching you tonight," Fisher said. "You can't win Ohio without winning central Ohio. And you can't win central Ohio without winning Ohio State University." As the night wore on, chants of "O-H-I-O keep Ohio blue" and "yes we can" accompanied thousands of "Moving America Forward" signs.
At 8:05 p.m., Obama took the stage with the first lady to the U2 song, "Where the Streets Have No Name," as flash bulbs erupted.
After three ‘O-H' and ‘I-Os' and condolences about the OSU football team's loss to Wisconsin Saturday, the president launched into his push for Democrats.
Obama's visit might be able to help fellow Democrats, as his job approval ratings have averaged 26 points higher than Congress' approval ratings, according to Gallup polls. That's better than four out of the last five presidents, according to pollsters.
"The biggest mistake is going back to the policies that created all this hurt in the first place," Obama said. "I've been explaining to a lot of people around the country, it's as if (Republicans) drove America's car into a ditch.
"Even though we didn't drive it into the ditch, it is still our responsibility to get that car out of the ditch, and so we pushed and we pushed. And every once in a while we'd look up. And up on the road, you'd see a Republican standing there, fanning themselves, sippin' on a Slurpee, having a latte," he said.
"Finally we got this car on level ground. It's pointing in right direction. We're ready to move America forward," Obama said. "Next thing you know, we get this tap on our shoulder … it's the Republicans — they want the keys back."
Obama told the crowd that Republicans can't have the keys back, his voice rising. The line drew thunderous applause.
Obama quipped that if Americans want the country to go forward, they have to put the car in "D." If they want to go in reverse, they put the car in "R."
The rally is part of the Democratic National Committee's $50 million midterm campaign to visit universities and key battleground states where Republicans are threatening Democratic power.
In contrast to the 2006 elections, when Democrats took over both chambers of Congress, voters are expected to return to Republican candidates on Nov. 2.
An Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll found one-quarter of those who voted for Obama in 2008 "are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall."
The expected voter reaction is in response to a ballooning national debt, poor economy, joblessness, record home foreclosures and health care problems. However, Obama did not miss the chance to warn attendees that his Republican counterparts will only make things worse.
"It's not like we didn't try what (Republicans) were peddling," Obama boomed. "We do not want what they are selling — we have been there and we're not coming back."
Michelle Obama, who joined the president on the campaign trail for the first time since his election, asked rally attendees to be aware of already-evident "positive change that impacts peoples' lives."
But the positive changes are not as evident to Rep. John Kasich.
"Ted Strickland lost 400,000 jobs in Ohio and just sat on his hands during the worst economic crisis since the great depression," said Rob Nichols, press secretary for Kasich, in an e-mail to The Lantern. "What Ted Strickland and President Obama are doing isn't working, and Ohioans are prepared to hold them accountable in November."
A poll released Friday showed Republicans widening their lead in Ohio. The poll's numbers show an eight-point lead for Kasich in his bid against Strickland. According to the poll, 51 percent of likely voters favored Kasich, while 43 percent said they would vote for Strickland.
The youngest category of likely voters, which includes college-aged students, was one of the groups most likely to favor Kasich on the poll. The survey reported that 52 percent of likely voters ages 18 to 29 support Kasich, compared to 44 percent for Strickland.
The poll also reported a 22-point lead for former U.S. Rep. Rob Portman over Fisher in their race to replace Sen. George Voinovich in Washington. The poll had a margin of sampling error of 3.7 percentage points.