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Looking trim, rested and ready for a fight to rival anything Rocky Balboa has ever encountered, President Barack Obama kicked off his 2012 presidential campaign on Saturday with a rousing appearance in Columbus, Ohio, that was plastered across cable news networks.
The rally was held at Ohio State University, where the 18,300-seat Schottenstein Center was packed but not a complete sell-out — there were full sections of empty seats in the upper decks of the arena. (The Columbus fire department estimated the crowd size at 14,000.) Before Obama entered the stadium, a series of video clips played on the jumbotron, from Obama dancing with Ellen DeGeneres and stump speeches from the 2008 campaign to highlights of his administration, including the famous Al Green moment, which the crowd seemed to appreciate, according to a pool report.
Michelle Obama, who has remained popular through the president’s first term, introduced her husband, delivering an address that called for a return to “American values” and the need for better “parents and grandparents” to raise the nation’s youth. Pointing out that Obama was raised by a single mother with limited means, the first lady stressed, “These experiences made him the man and the president he is today,” she said.” The president then took the podium a little after 1:30 p.m.
His sleeves rolled up and voice slightly hoarse, Obama launched into an impassioned speech in which he touched on the return of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, support for middle-class families and the benefits of his historic health care reform. He attacked Republican rival Mitt Romney on supporting tax breaks for the richest Americans, saying the wealthy should be willing to “pay a little bit more.” In a sly jab at Romney’s oft-repeated quote, “Corporations are people,” Obama stressed, “I don’t care how many ways you try to explain it: Corporations aren’t people. People are people.” The crowd responded with wild cheers and chants of “four more years.”
“We are making progress and now we face a choice, Ohio,” Obama told the crowd during the 36-minute-long speech. “This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and we can’t turn back now.”
Among the break-out lines currently making their way around Twitter:
· “This election will be even closer than the last.”
· “It’s time to stop denying citizenship to responsible young people just because they’re the children of undocumented immigrants.”
· “We are not returning to the days when you could be kicked out of the U.S. military because of who you are or who you love.”
· “As long as I’m President, I will never allow Medicare to be turned into a voucher that would end the program as we know it.”
· “No one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job or a roof over their heads when they come home.”
After his speech, the president headed directly to Virginia — like Ohio, another battleground state that will decide the 2012 election — to deliver his second address of the day there.
Watch President Obama’s campaign kick-off speech at Ohio State University below:
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