Obama Campaign Kickoff: “They Had The Feeling of a Concert By An Aging Rock Star”…
COLUMBUS, Ohio — President Obama sought to rekindle the passion of his 2008 victory on Saturday with a pair of huge rallies in battleground states that signaled a new, more politically aggressive phase of the campaign and a sharpened critique of Mitt Romney
Mr. Obama, speaking to enthusiastic crowds here and in Richmond, Va., said the election offered voters a stark choice between an America “where everyone gets a fair shot” and the Republican vision offered by Mr. Romney, which he said was built on a credo of layoffs, outsourcing, tax avoidance and union busting.
Seeking to link Mr. Romney to Congressional Republicans, the president said the presumptive Republican nominee was their candidate and could be relied on to “rubber-stamp” their agenda, “if he gets the chance.”
“Ohio, I tell you what,” Mr. Obama said, his voice rising, “we cannot give him that chance.” The crowd of 14,000 supporters erupted into cheers and chants of “Four more years!”
Hanging above him was a blue-and-white banner with the word “Forward” — a new slogan the president invoked as a reason to re-elect him and as a rebuke of Mr. Romney, who he said would drag the country back to what he called the failed policies that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
“Governor Romney is a patriotic American who has raised a wonderful family,” Mr. Obama said, before painting the former Massachusetts governor as an out-of-touch plutocrat who he said lectures hard-working Americans on the need to be more productive.
“I don’t care about how many ways you try to explain it,” the president said, mocking a line Mr. Romney once used while campaigning. “Corporations aren’t people. People are people.”
Many of the president’s points were familiar, having been grist for remarks at countless fund-raisers. But these rallies — at Virginia Commonwealth University and Ohio State University — provided him with his first chance to shrug off the tension between governing and campaigning and plunge into campaign mode.
Appearing without a jacket or tie, his preferred look during his first campaign, Mr. Obama spoke with a combative tone, his voice becoming hoarse toward the end, as he pleaded for support for another four years in office.
As reinforcement, Mr. Obama brought along his wife, Michelle, to introduce him. The first lady, wearing a turquoise dress that almost matched the sea of blue placards, tried to warm up the crowd with a slogan from 2008.
“It sounds like you all are already fired up and ready to go,” she said to a swell of cheers. “Let me tell you, I’m pretty fired up and ready to go myself.”
Recounting the story of her father’s struggles to put her and her brother through college, Mrs. Obama said her husband was fighting for an America where everybody gets a shot at success.
The atmosphere at both rallies was buoyant and the crowds were sizable, though in Columbus the turnout did not fill the Schottenstein Center’s 18,300 seats. David Plouffe, a senior adviser to the president, said he was happy with the crowds at this point noting that they dwarfed those that turned out for Mr. Romney.
At times, the rallies had the feeling of a concert by an aging rock star: a few supporters were wearing faded “Hope” and Obama 2008 T-shirts, and cheers went up when the president told people to tell their friends that this campaign was “still about hope” and “still about change.”
….Then onto OHIO… and EMPTY SEATS…
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Saturday was supposed to be President Barack Obama’s day, dominated by headlines of successful campaign holding its first rally. Instead, reports prominently included references to thousands of empty seats at the president’s first rally here — just as the Romney campaign wanted it.
At The Ohio State University, over 5,000 seats in the 20,000-person venue went unfilled on the upper seating deck and behind the press cameras —a sharp contrast to Obama’s events in 2008, and even a 2010 event with then-Gov. Ted Strickland which drew 35,000.
ABC News had reported Saturday morning that the campaign expected “overflow” crowds at each event, crowds which never did materialize.
The New York Times quoted Obama senior adviser David Plouffe, not about the president’s remarks, but about the crowd size — with reporter Mark Landler comparing the rallies to “a concert by an aging rock star.”
Reporters had some help in noticing the empty seats. Romney spokespeople made it into both events, waiting in line like everyone else. They worked their way close to the press risers, ready to provide rapid response to Obama’s speech.
Romney Deputy Press Secretary Ryan Williams was in the audience at the OSU rally, and tweeted a picture of the empty seats — which instantly got picked up by conservative blogs. After Obama’s remarks he was swarmed by local reporters, and after giving them a standard response to the speech, he commented on the empty seats.
References to the crowd size made it into local papers and television reporters, all distracting from Obama’s message.
Democrats fired back with references to “Ford Field,” and Romney’s infamous speech to the Detroit Economic Club and the bare football stadium.
The difference between our events today and Governor Romney’s is that people came.#fordfield
But as the Romney campaign sees it, they had the last laugh — with Obama falling short of his own campaign’s expectations.
“They spent the day defending why they couldn’t sell-out the arena, not pushing their own message, so that was a big win for us,” one Romney aide said.
Correction: Obama’s 2010 rally was at the OSU Oval not at the Schottenstein Center where his rally was on Saturday.