While it may feel like Barack Obama's bid for a second term has already been going on forever, the campaign only formally began this afternoon. The President and Michelle left D.C. this morning for Columbus, where the two appeared at a large rally at Ohio State University. Michelle served as the opening act, speaking to the supporters gathered in the school's basketball arena about her parents' determination to save money for her college education and urging soon-to-be graduates to be sure to re-register to vote at their addresses.
"Barack cannot do this alone. And fortunately, he never has. We have always moved this country forward together. And today, more than ever before, Barack needs your help ... I’m not going to kid you. This journey is going to be long, and it’s going to be hard."
She then introduced her husband, who took the stage in a fairly casual button-down and slacks (no suit or tie) to the strains of U2. He wasted no time when it came to digging into Mitt Romney — yet another sign that this campaign is going to have a more negative tone than the hope-and-change language of 2008 (though those words did, of course, come up in the speech.) Allowing that his opponent is a "patriotic American," Obama honed in on Romney's belief that "corporations are people." (Unfortunately, his speechwriters have yet to chalk that confusion up to the fact that Romney is an actual robot.)
“Corporations aren’t people — people are people!” shouted Obama, who was hoarse by the end of his 35-minute speech. “He has drawn the wrong lessons from [his] experiences, he sincerely believes that if CEOs and … investors prosper we all prosper as well. … Harder work has not led to higher incomes. Governor Romney doesn’t seem to get that.”
As noted by Politico, the crowd — while enthusiastic — was a bit smaller than organizers would have liked. About 14,000 people showed up for the event, though the space can hold 18,000. (An outdoor 2010 appearance on the campus attracted 30,000.) The Republican National Convention issued a charming statement regarding Obama's reception in Ohio in the form of "fake prepared remarks":
"Ohio, thanks for the tepid welcome. I know I'm not as popular here as I once was, so I'll take what I can get," the RNC said in the imagined speech it dubbed "as prepared for reality."
Obama's team dismissed the numbers issue (or non-issue), pointing out that "Mitt Romney’s largest crowd in the last year was 3,000." After the rally, Air Force One took off for the second of the day's rallies, which will take place at Virginia Commonwealth University.