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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
President Obama's Remarks at Campaign Kick-off Event in Ohio
Aired May 5, 2012 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 1:00 Eastern now, we're keeping an eye on a live event for you right now. President Barack Obama and the first lady are at Ohio State University right now. This the first official rally of the president's re-election campaign.
Mrs. Obama will introduce her husband and then we'll actually hear from the president. These are pictures earlier of the president and the first lady arriving there in Columbus, Ohio. The president has been spending an awful lot of time in Ohio, a key swing state.
Again, this election season, this is his 21st visit since he became president. We'll be going live to the event as soon as it begins with the president and first lady there.
We've also got a full analysis of the rally today. We put together a pretty incredible panel for you beginning with Jessica Yellin who is traveling with the president and at the rally in Columbus, Ohio. Howard Wilkinson is a political reporter in Cincinnati and we're mixing up the order.
We got Lenny McAllister, a Republican strategist. We've got Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist with us again. Again, we're expecting to see the president and the first lady in just a few minutes from now.
But let's begin with our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, traveling with the president there. All right, Columbus, Ohio, full crowd. Earlier we said it wasn't quite full, but now looks like it is. What's going on?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It looks like it is on TV, Fredricka, but the top tier of this auditorium is not full. It's empty, mostly. You know, it's fair to say they expected to fill this up, so it must be a disappointment to the campaign.
We should also point out the Romney campaign has never drawn a crowd even half this size. So judge by whatever standard you will. I will point out that they have been running a series of videos to warm up the crowd.
They have been sending around messages saying check in on Four Square, tweet out this message. There's a lot of sort of new media, digital media going on. They are waiting on the president to come out and deliver a speech that will be his attempt to frame the economic struggles the nation has gone through. And ongoing progress that can get better in the future, to give their spin on a narrative that he can continue to sell moving forward over the next months to combat what he's going to face from Mitt Romney, which will be attacks on his leadership on the economy -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Jessica, what is it about being on a college campus in the swing state of Ohio that's most appealing to this White House?
YELLIN: Well, the youth vote is a major factor for the president. As you know, young people were both a source of volunteer enthusiasm, ground troops that go out and knock on doors, and also it's a major decisive vote in what should be a razor thin election.
They can make the difference if they go out and vote. Also they are the kind of people you can hope to come out on Saturday afternoon at this hour and fill up an auditorium.
So if you want to get a crowd that's big, you go to a college campus. That's part of the reason you would come to this kind of location a very important bloc for the White House for the president.
WHITFIELD: Jessica, no one can forget that rollout in 2008 of that campaign, Springfield, Illinois, this clearly a different tone. He's an incumbent. But if that was the campaign for hope and change, what is the focus for this 2012 campaign?
YELLIN: Well, they know that that kind of movement enthusiasm is different this time. It's not going to be there. The message is forward, looking forward. That they're looking forward and they're arguing that the Romney campaign would take the nation to old policies that are like President Bush's policies.
The idea is to argue that the case -- the president needs more time to continue to make progress. They will argue that the economy is getting better. They have key demographic groups that they are targeting, Latinos, lesbian, gays, bisexuals and women.
Major focus on women, they are a reliable voting group. More other specialty targeted groups, auto bailout workers. The message directly to those groups that the president's policies helped these people and these groups, and more of the president's policies will be better in the future and the opposition will make it worse for these groups.
That will be the message. He's going to try to drum that home here today and over the next few months.
WHITFIELD: Jessica, I know it's loud and people are cheering there. So clearly people there in the room are supporters of the president. But what have people been saying to you in the last 24 or so hours there in Ohio? What are voters in general saying about the president or their hopes for the future?
YELLIN: You know, there is a mixed sense, people who just have no interest. They want to change and that's that. People who are undecided want to be persuaded that things can get better. I think they are starting -- Fredricka. WHITFIELD: OK. It looks indeed. The first lady, Michelle Obama is coming out there. We know that it's been made very clear that she is going to be a force in this re-election campaign, similar, Jessica, to how she was once the campaign kicked off with Barack Obama back in Springfield, Illinois.
Way back when and then it wasn't long after you started seeing Michelle Obama in a number of large forums from South Carolina on. So let's listen in to the first lady there in Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State University, to the first lady of the United States.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Wow. Wow. It sounds like you all are already fired up and ready to go. This is amazing. It is truly amazing. You know what, being here with all of you today. Let me tell you, I'm feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself.
I really am. But there is a reason why we're here today. We love you, too. It's not just because we support one extraordinary man -- although, I'll admit I'm a little biased, because I think our president is awesome.
And it's not just because we want to win an election. We are here -- we're here because of the values we believe in. We're here because of the vision for this country that we all share. We're because we want all our children to have a good education, right?
Schools that push them and inspire them, prepare them for good jobs. We want our parents and our grandparents to retire with dignity, because we believe that after a lifetime of hard work, they should enjoy their golden years.
We want to restore that basic middle class security for our families because we believe that folks shouldn't go bankrupt because they get sick. They shouldn't lose their home because someone loses a job. We believe that responsibility should be rewarded and hard work should pay off.
And truly these are basic American values. They are the same values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. You see, my father was a blue-collar city worker at the city water plant. My family lived in a little bitty apartment on the south side of Chicago.
And neither of my parents had the chance to go to college. But let me tell you what my parents did do, they saved, they sacrificed, I mean, they poured everything they had into me and my brother. They wanted us to have the kind of education they could only dream of.
While pretty much all of my college tuition came from student loans and grants, my dad still paid a little bitty portion of that tuition himself. Let me tell you, every semester, my dad was determined to pay that bill right on time, because he was so proud to be sending his kids to college.
WHITFIELD: All right, the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama there talking about the basic values, American values that everyone shares. She is helping to jump-start this campaign for the president of the United States who momentarily will also be taking to the stage in Columbus, Ohio. We'll bring you the president's live comments as well. Plus we'll also have reaction from the Romney campaign.
WHITFIELD: Back to Columbus, Ohio now. The first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama there helping to jump start this re-election campaign for President Barack Obama. She's talking about the basic American values that everyone shares. Let's listen in.
MICHELLE OBAMA: You can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, all you have to guide you are your life's experiences, your values and your vision for this country. That's all you have.
In the end, when you're making those impossible choices, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for. We all know what Barack Obama is, who he is. We all know what our president stands for, right?
He is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. That's who he is. He's the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to catch a bus to her job at the bank.
Even though Barack's grandmother worked hard to support the family, she was good at her job, like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling. Men no more qualified than she was were promoted up the ladder ahead of her.
So believe me Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means when someone doesn't have the chance to fulfill their potential. What you need to know, America, those are the experiences that have made him the man and the president he is today.
But I have said this before, and I will say it again and again, Barack cannot do it alone, and fortunately he never has. We have always moved this country forward together. Today more than ever before, Barack needs your help. He needs your help. He needs your help.
He needs every single one of you, every single one of you to give just a little part of your life each week to this campaign. He needs to register those voters, right? So all of the college students out there, all of you, if you're going to be moving over the summer, remember to register at your new address in the fall.
You got that? Get that done. Barack needs you to join one of our neighborhood teams and start organizing in your community. Just let me say, if there have ever been any doubt about the difference that you can make, I just want you to remember that in the end this all could come down to those few thousand people who register to vote.
Think about it. It could all come down to those last few thousand folks who get out to the polls on November 6th. When you average that out over this entire state, it might mean registering just one more person in your town.
It might mean just helping one more person in your community get out and vote on Election Day. So know this, with every door you knock on, with every call you make, with every conversation you have, I want you to remember that this could be the one that makes the difference. This could be the one. Remember that.
That is exactly the kind of impact that each of you can have. Now, I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long, and it is going to be hard. But know that that is how change always happens in this country.
If we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there, we always do maybe not in our lifetimes, but in your children's lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes.
Because in the end, that's what this is all about. That is what I think about when I tuck my girls in at night. I think about the world I want to leave for them and for all of our sons and our daughters. I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me.
I want to give them a foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. I want to give them that sense of limitless possibility, that belief that here in America there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it. So we just cannot turn back now, right?
We have come so far, but we have so much more to do. If we want to keep on moving forward, we need to work our hearts out for the man that I have the pleasure of introducing here today. Are you ready? It is my privilege to introduce my husband and our president, President Barack Obama!
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Hello, Ohio! It is good to be back in Ohio! You know, right before I came out, somebody happened to give me a buckeye for good luck. I love you back.
Now, before I begin, I want to say thank you to a few people who are joining us here today, your Mayor Michael Coleman is here. Former Governor Ted Strickland is here. Senator Sherry Brown is in the house. An American hero, John Glenn, is with us.
And I want to thank so many of our neighborhood team leaders for being here today. You guys will be the backbone of this campaign. I want the rest of you to join a team or become a leader yourself, because we are going to win this thing the old-fashioned way, door by door, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.
In Ohio four years ago, you and I began a journey together. I didn't run and you didn't work your hearts out just to win an election. We came together to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and most prosperous nation on earth.
We came together because we believe that in America your success shouldn't be determined by the circumstances of your birth. If you are willing to work hard, you should be able to find a good job. If you're willing to meet your responsibilities, you should be able to own a home, maybe start a business.
Give your children the chance to do even better. No matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or what your last name is.
We believe the free market is one of the greatest forces for human progress in human history, that businesses are the engine of growth, that risk takers and innovators should be rewarded. But we also believe that at its best the free market has never been a license to take whatever you want however you can get it.
That alongside our entrepreneurial spirit and rugged individualism, America only prospers when we meet our obligations to one another and future generations. We came together in 2008 because our country had strayed from these basic values.
The surplus squandered on tax cuts for people who didn't need them and weren't even asking for them. Two wars were being waged on a credit card. Wall Street speculators reaped huge profits by making bets with other people's money.
Manufacturers left our shores. A shrinking number of Americans did fantastically well, while most people struggled with falling incomes, rising costs, the slowest job growth in half a century.
It was a house of cards that collapsed in the most disruptive crisis since the great depression. In the last six months of 2008, even as we were campaigning, nearly 3 million of our neighbors lost their jobs. Over 800,000 more were lost in the month I took office alone.
It was tough. But I tell you what, Ohio, the American people are tougher. All across this country people like you dug in. Some of you retrained. Some of you went back to school.
Small business owners cut back on expenses, but did everything they could to keep their employees. Yes, there were setbacks. Yes, there were disappointments. But we didn't quit. We don't quit.
Together we're fighting our way back. When someone let Detroit go bankrupt, we made a bet on American workers, on the ingenuity of American companies. Today our auto industry is back on top of the world.
Manufacturers started investing again, adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. Businesses got back to the basics, exports surged. Over 4 million jobs were created in the last two years, more than 1 million of those in the last six months alone.
WHITFIELD: All right, live event. People of all ages as you can see in the crowd there, pretty important event for President Barack Obama in Ohio today, the first official rally of his re-election campaign. We, of course, have much more of this live event.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: All right, back live now to Ohio University. The president right now saying this is a make or break moment for the middle class. His words, we've been through too much to turn back now. Much more of our live coverage of the president now.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- in 2008 where everyone gets a fair shot and everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules, that's the choice in this election, and that's why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States!
Governor Romney is a patriotic American who has raised a wonderful family and he has much to be proud of. He's run a large financial firm and he's run a state. But I think he has drawn the wrong lessons from those experiences.
He sincerely believes CEOs and wealthy investors like him make money the rest of us will automatically prosper as well. When a woman in Iowa shared the story of her financial struggles, he responded with economic theory.
He told her our productivity equals our income. Well, let me tell you something, the problem with our economy isn't that the American people aren't productive enough. You've been working harder than ever.
The challenge we face right now, the challenge we faced for over a decade is that harder work hasn't led to higher incomes. It's that bigger profits haven't led to better jobs. Governor Romney doesn't seem to get that.
He doesn't seem to understand maximizing profits by whatever means necessary, through layoffs or tax avoidance or union busting might not always be good for the average American or for the American economy.
Why else would he want to spend trillions more on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans? Why else would he propose cutting his own taxes while raising them on 18 million working families? Why else would he want to slash the investments that have always helped the economy grow?
But at the same time stop regulating the reckless behavior on Wall Street that helped the economy crash. Somehow he and his friends in Congress think that the same bad ideas will lead to a different result.
Or they are just hoping you won't remember what happened the last time we tried it their way. Well, Ohio, I'm here to say, we were there, we remember, and we are not going back. We are moving this country forward!
But we want businesses to succeed. We went entrepreneurs and investors rewarded when they take risks, when they take jobs and grow our economy.
But the true measure of our prosperity is more than just a running tally of every balance sheet and quarterly profit report. I don't care how many ways you try to explain it, corporations aren't people. People are people.
We measure prosperity not just by our total GDP, not by how many billionaires we produce, but how well the typical family is doing, whether they can go as far as their dreams and hard work will take them.
We understand that in this country, people succeed when they have a chance to get a decent education and learn new skills. And by the way, so do the businesses that hire them or the companies that they start.
We know that our economy grows when we support research into medical breakthroughs and new technologies that lead to the next internet app or lifesaving drug.
We know that our country is stronger when we can count on affordable health insurance and Medicare and Social Security. When we protect our kids from toxic dumping and mercury pollution, when there are rules to make sure we aren't taken advantage of by credit card companies and mortgage lenders and financial institutions.
And we know these rules aren't just good for seniors or kids or consumers, they are good for business, too. They are part of what makes the market work. Look, we don't expect government to solve all our problems, and it shouldn't try.
I learned from my mom that no education policy can take the place of a parent's love and affection. As a young man, I worked with a group of Catholic churches who taught me that no poverty program can make as much of a difference as the kindness and commitment of a caring soul.
Not every regulation is smart, not every tax dollar is spent wisely, not every person can be helped to refuses to help themselves, but that's not an excuse to tell the vast majority of responsible, hardworking Americans, you're on your own.
Unless you're lucky enough to have parents who can lend you money, you may not be able to go to college. Even if you pay your premiums every month, you're out of luck if an insurance company decides to drop your coverage when you need it most.
That's not how we built America. That's not who we are. We built this country together!
WHITFIELD: All right, President Barack Obama saying this is the campaign of moving forward. More of his live comments.
WHITFIELD: President Barack Obama in Columbus, Ohio pledging to do more and help more people go to college and community colleges. Let's listen in.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- a clean energy future that's never been more promising for our economy, and for our security and for the safety our planet. That's why I'm running for president. That's the choice in this election in Ohio. 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.
America is safer and more respected because of the courage and selflessness of the armed forces. And as long as I'm commander in chief, this country will care for our veterans and serve our veterans as well as they have served us because nobody who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their heads when they come home.
My opponent said it was tragic to end the war in Iraq. He said he won't set a time line for ending the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I intend to keep it. After a decade of war that's cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, the nation we need to build is our own.
I will use half of what we're no longer spending on war to pay down the deficit and the other half to repair our roads and our bridges, our runways and our wireless networks. That's the choice in this election, to rebuild America.
I'm running to pay down our debt in a way that's balanced and responsible. After inheriting a trillion dollar deficit, I signed $2 trillion of spending cuts into law.
Now I want to finish the job by streamlining government and cutting more waste and reforming our tax code so that it is simpler and fairer and asks the wealthiest americans to pay a little bit more.
Now, my opponent won't tell us how he paid for his new $5 trillion tax cut, a tax cut that gives an average of $250,000 to every millionaire in this country.
But we know the bill for that tax cut will either be passed onto our children, or it will be paid for by a whole lot of ordinary Americans. That's what we know and I refuse to let that happen again.
WHITFIELD: President Barack Obama outlining what money has been spent on war. Now that the war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan to end in 2014, he said that money would be used to pay down America's debt and help build roads and bridges. Much more of the president with his campaign called "Forward."
WHITFIELD: President Barack Obama in Columbus, Ohio saying a lot is at stake including reforming Medicare.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- taking away access to affordable birth control. I want women to control their own health choices, just like I want my daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons. We are not turning back the clock. We are moving forward.
We're not returning to the days when you could be kicked out of the United States military just because of who you are and who you love. That would be wrong for our national security and it would be a betrayal of our values.
This should be the last election where multi-million dollar donations speak louder than the voices of ordinary citizens. We need more checks on lobbyists and special interests, not less. We're not going to eliminate the EPA.
We're not going to roll back the bargaining rights generations of workers fought for, it's time to stop denying citizenship to responsible young people just because they are the children of undocumented immigrants.
This country is at its best -- this country is at its best when we harness the god-given talents of every individual, when we hear every voice, when we come together as one American family striving for the same dream. That's what we're fighting for.
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.
WHITFIELD: In Columbus, Ohio, President Barack Obama restarting his forward-looking campaign saying that he's not moving the clock backward but forward on health, gay rights, administration, all that from Columbus, Ohio.
WHITFIELD: President Obama there in Columbus, Ohio talking about everything from education to job security to war, veteran securities not looking at the clock, not turning the clock forward, not turning the clock back in his words, but instead forward.
He says it's a make or break moment for the middle class and that's what he's pledging to do for the middle class and secure education and people's retirements. The president in the United States is in the very valuable swing state of Columbus, Ohio.
We have with us some analysis from Lenny McAllister, Republican and Maria Cardona, Democratic strategist. Also with us, Howard Wilkinson who knows the state of Ohio very well, Cincinnati reporter with WVXU.
Thanks to all of you while we continue to listen to the president here. We heard the president really underscoring and the first lady, too, who was rolling out helping to roll out this restart campaign saying that this is about basic American values and this is a campaign about moving forward. Marie, you first, effective, impactful?
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it's been incredibly effective, Fredricka. The president has really laid out a very clear vision of where he wants to continue to take the country. And his slogan forward with his speech today I think really lays out the differences between what he is going to continue to do to help will the middle class with their struggles in this recession versus what Mitt Romney wants to do.
And just a couple of examples, on small businesses, the president has given small businesses 17 tax cuts to help them grow, to help them hire people. When somebody asked Mitt Romney his advice on starting a small business, what did he say to this young person?
Go were borrow money from your parents. On student loans, the same Mitt Romney said shop around or borrow money from your parents while this president wants to make student loans to be accessible.
Those are just two very small examples, which I think really layout the vision and the stark contrast that will be with what this election is about.
WHITFIELD: And Lenny, while the president even took an opportunity to compliment Romney and said you know, he's a great businessman, he's very patriotic, he raised a great family, but he believes in a -- the president believes that Romney has it wrong. That if CEOs prosper then so will everybody else. How will the Romney camp respond to that?
LENNY MCALLISTER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, what they need to respond to that is number one, prosperity is something where you have entrepreneurs creating jobs and building jobs. That's something that Governor Romney has done in his personal life and he also attempted to do and did a good job of while he was governor of Massachusetts.
But he'll also say, listen, President Obama wants you to look forward because he doesn't want to look right behind you with the jobs numbers from yesterday and the past three plus years. He didn't want you to look behind you in the record debt that he articulated.
He doesn't want you to look behind you and look at what the Reagan recovery look like versus Obama, quote/unquote, "recovery." I would definitely have folks looking forward versus looking back at the last four years.
President Obama doesn't want folks look back on his own words where he said if the economy doesn't improve of these four years, this is going to be a one term proposition.
Now we're talking about let's not look back at my words. Let's look forward and hopefully you'll forget about what you're going through over these past four years under my presidency.
WHITFIELD: Howard Wilkinson, political reporter with WVXU. Welcome. It's our first time getting a chance to talk to one another. Is the president speaking to that Ohio electorate, this is an important swing state, he's talking about job security, retirement, Medicare, colleges and opportunities, greater opportunities to go to community colleges. Is this the forum and is this the audience that want to hear this kind of message? HOWARD WILKINSON, POLITICAL REPORTER, WVXU: Well, I think it's a very good forum for him. I mean, college students and young people in general did a whole lot four years ago to help him win the state. George W. Bush had won here in 2000, 2004. He turned it blue. He won with 31.5 percent of the vote. It's going to be very difficult.
WHITFIELD: Can he keep it blue?
WILKINSON: Well, the unemployment situation in Ohio is very odd. Usually when there's a bad situation in the economy, when there's a deep recession, unemployment numbers are higher than the national average. We're actually lower at this point whether or not that will help him make his argument remains to be seen.
WHITFIELD: A critical state and clearly the president and the White House knows this, 21 times in Ohio since being elected in 2008. Thanks to all of you.
Howard Wilkinson with WVXU, so glad you were with us. Lenny McAllister, Maria Cardona, thanks to you, as well. Appreciate that. The president, of course, you saw wrapping up his campaign there in Columbus, Ohio.
They're moving on later to the state of Virginia as well. You see him exiting along with the first lady, Michelle Obama, who helped kick things off there.
I'm Fredricka Whitfield. "YOUR MONEY" coming up next. More analysis of the president and beyond later on 4:00 Eastern time. Right now "YOUR MONEY."