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Obama Kicks Off Campaign With a Roar

(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/ Getty Images)
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/ Getty Images)

President Barack Obama today cast himself once again as the candidate of hope and change as he kicked off his re-election campaign by trying to recapture the magic of his run four years ago.

“You tell them, it’s still about hope. It’s still about change. …We can make a difference in the life of this country,” Obama exclaimed toward the end of an impassioned, 40-minute speech in Columbus, Ohio.

Obama, introduced with an emotional appeal from First Lady Michelle Obama, drew stark contrasts between himself and Mitt Romney, portraying the presumed Republican nominee as a successful businessman, patriot and family man but one who has the wrong prescriptions for the country. “He sincerely believes that if CEOs and wealthy investors like him make money, the rest of us will prosper as well,” Obama said. “Why else would he propose cutting his own taxes while raising them on 18 million working families?”

Obama also tied Romney to Republicans in Congress. “For the past two years, the Republicans who run this Congress have insisted we go right back to the policies that created this mess,” Obama said, only now they want to do it “on steroids” with deeper cuts to important spending programs and deeper tax cuts for the wealthy. “This time they want to give banks and insurance companies even more power to do as they please,” Obama said.

The Republicans “have found a nominee who has promised to rubber stamp this agenda if he gets the chance….We cannot give him that chance! …We’ve been through too much to turn back now!”

Obama ripped Romney’s statement last year that “corporations are people.” “Corporations aren’t people,” Obama said. “People are people!”

Obama said Romney called it “tragic” to end the war in Iraq and doesn’t want a timeline to end the war in Afghanistan. “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,” Obama said.

On Medicare, Obama said he would “never” allow it to become a voucher program, and defended his health care overhaul. And he explicitly made the election in part a referendum on the rights of women — from health insurance to birth control. “We don’t need another political fight about ending a woman’s right to choose or getting rid of Planned Parenthood or taking away affordable access to birth control,” he said. “I want my daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons…We are not turning back the clock…We are moving forward!”

Republicans quickly jumped on one line in the speech: Obama asked if people are satisfied and the audience said no.

“Obama is right; Americans aren’t satisfied,” the Republican National Committee blasted out in an email after the speech. “Three and a half years after running on hope and change, Barack Obama kicked off his campaign with more divisive rhetoric and showed us he really is running on hype and blame,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “Obama talks a lot about moving forward but has he forgotten he’s been president for the past three years?” Priebus asked. “He failed to change Washington as he promised and unlike 2008, he will have to answer for his record.”

“No matter how many lofty campaign speeches President Obama gives, the fact remains that American families are struggling on his watch: to pay their bills, find a job and keep their homes,” said Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman. The American people “will hold him accountable for his broken promises and ineffective leadership,” she said.

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