A/V: Obama 2012 Campaign Kicks Off in Columbus

Monday, May 7, 2012
President Barack Obama waves to the crowd as he makes his way to the podium to deliver remarks at the Obama 2012 reelection campaign's kickoff event in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama paid a short visit to Ohio's capital city on Saturday afternoon to formally kick off the Obama 2012 reelection campaign at the "Ready to Go" rally hosted at the Ohio State University's Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center.  About 14,000 enthusiastic supporters attended the nearly two-hour event that featured speeches by both of the Obamas as well as other current and former Ohio Democratic officials.

In a nearly 38-minute speech, the president reminded the gathering of what condition the country was in when he was elected in 2008 and why they need to give him a second term.  "I didn’t run, and you didn’t work your hearts out, just to win an election," Obama said.  "We came together to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth."

The president retouched upon the financial crisis that his administration was saddled with when he entered office in January 2009.  He also made mention of his presumptive Republican rival's comments concerning the troubled US auto industry.

President Obama addresses supporters at the "Ready to Rally" campaign event in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday afternoon.

"When some wanted to let Detroit go bankrupt, we made a bet on American workers, on the ingenuity of American companies," Obama told the audience.  In a November 2008 New York Times op/ed submission entitled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt", Mitt Romney offered personal rationale to explain why a managed bankruptcy would benefit two of Detroit's "Big Three" automakers. 

Obama credits the bailout and other governmental assistance with the resurgence of that industry along with others in the manufacturing sector.  "Businesses got back to the basics, exports surged.  And over four million jobs were created in the last two years -- more than one million of those in the last six months alone," the president cited.

Romney was not the only political opponent in Obama's sights.  He addressed the Republicans who currently run the House of Representatives and have a slim minority in the Senate.  In a reference to the recently House-passed budget--commonly known as the "Ryan budget" and named after Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan, Obama warned the crowd that "Republicans in Congress have found a nominee for President who has promised to rubber-stamp this agenda if he gets the chance."

On several occasions, Obama pointed out the differences between himself and Romney.  On the economy, he mentioned a December 2011 comment made by the GOP candidate where he tells a woman in Iowa that "our productivity equals our income. "He doesn’t seem to understand that maximizing profits by whatever means necessary -- whether through layoffs or outsourcing or tax avoidance or union-busting -- might not always be good for the average American or for the American economy," the president explained.

The President affectionately pecks the First Lady's cheek before making his remarks at the "Ready to Rally" event in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday afternoon.

Obama touted his administration's successes in foreign policy and national security.  He told the audience, "for the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq.  Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country.  Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat.  And by 2014, the war in Afghanistan will be over."

On social issues, the president brought up his administration's signature piece of healthcare legislation as well as supporting the current version of Medicare, a woman's right to affordable medical and family planning resources, and the repeal of the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy against gays openly serving in the military.

Near the end of his speech, Obama made his direct pitch to the audience members both inside the arena and those watching on television and through other online resources.  "That's what we're fighting for, Ohio.  A bold America.  A competitive America.  A generous America.  A forward-looking America, where everybody has a chance to make of their life what they will.  That’s what made us the envy of the world.  That’s what makes us great.  That’s why I’m running again for President of the United States."

The president was introduced by his wife Michelle whose comments included a conspicuous reference to the campaign's "Forward" slogan that was announced last Monday.  "We have come so far, but we have so much more to do.  And if we want to keep on moving forward then we need to work our hearts out for the man that I have the pleasure of introducing here today," the First Lady said.

Other speakers at the rally included US senator Sherrod Brown, who is facing his own contentious reelection bid in November against current Ohio state treasurer Josh Mandel, former senator John Glenn, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland, and Columbus mayor Michael Coleman

At the conclusion of his remarks, President and Mrs. Obama traveled on to Richmond, Virginia and the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University for a similar political gathering before returning to the White House early Saturday evening.  Obama won both Ohio and Virginia in the 2008 election and recent polling show him in tight races with Romney in the run-up to the November general election.

A birds-eye view of the estimated 14,000 supporters who attended the "Ready to Rally" event in Columbus, Ohio on Saturday afternoon.

The Columbus rally was advertised as the first official campaign event for the Obama/Biden 2012 reelection campaign and federal election laws require reimbursements for the use of government resources and services for the two events.   Air Force One, one of the major perks for an incumbent president, costs nearly $180,000 an hour to operate but the campaign, per a 2010 Federal Election Commission rules update, is only required to reimburse the government the cost of traveling on a Boeing 737, a much smaller plane, and only for the expenses of campaign passengers.  Members of Obama's staff and Secret Service protection are considered essential for any presidential travel and their costs are excluded from any calculations..

The White House has been criticized for similar trips made by the president in recent months but responded by saying that they were related to policies and not to politics.  Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus submitted a letter to the Government Accountability office late last month to request a formal inquiry into trips Obama made to Colorado and North Carolina. 

According to White House officials, those trips to the campuses of the University of North Carolina and the University of Colorado were directly related to pending legislation in the Congress to prevent the doubling of student loan increases.  The RNC chair countered those claims, stating that the choice of locations and audiences was directly related to key constituencies in the fall's general election.  "One might imagine that if this were genuinely a government event, he might have stopped in a non-battleground state like Texas or Vermont," Priebus said.

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