CLEVELAND, Ohio -- President Obama wrapped up a final whirlwind weekend of campaigning with a rally at Cleveland State University, where he called on supporters to show up at the polls Tuesday and work hard to get others to turn out as well.
It was the president's twelfth visit to this key battleground state since taking office and his eighth trip this year. He and Vice President Biden, who joined him at the event, were here to help out in several tough races where turnout is sure to be key. Polls show Republican senate candidate Rob Portman way ahead of his Democratic rival Lee Fisher, but the race between Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and his opponent John Kasich is much closer.
"We've got to get everybody in Ohio out to vote and in Ohio you can vote early," Obama told the crowd in a not-quite-full arena here on this Halloween afternoon. "There is early voting just a few blocks from here so you can go right after this rally if you haven't voted, because if everyone who fought for change in 2008 shows up to vote in 2010, we will win this election."
In speaking with reporters earlier in the day, Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown agreed that turnout would be key to a Strickland victory and could also help other Democrats in tight congressional races like John Boccieri. He said the president's visit would help get voters to the polls and that "a rising tide lifts all boats" and added that Portman was outpacing Fisher because he "has Karl Rove's rolodex and that's millions and millions of dollars."
Most political analysts expect Republicans to gain enough seats to win control of the House of Representatives, but to keep the Senate in Democratic hands. Still, Democrats are doing everything they can to save as many seats as possible. The president's four-stop swing this weekend followed a six-city, five state tour last weekend and the vice president, the first lady and former President Bill Clinton have all been campaigning vigorously this election season.
The president this weekend, continued to make the same argument he has been making since 2008: that the Republican Party is too focused on tax cuts for the rich and on policies that would help big corporations and hurt the middle class. He said Democrats needed to get out the vote so that the progress made in putting the economy back on track and overhauling the health care and financial regulatory systems.
While the vice president greeted the president on the tarmac in Cleveland with a salute, Ohio Republicans weren't quite so friendly. On a conference call with reporters ahead of Obama's visit, GOP Sen. George Voinovich slammed Obama for his policies and said the president was only visiting Ohio to build support for 2012.
"He is coming for his future not Ohio's future," Voinovich said.
Getting the base to the polls
The president has sought in particular to motivate his base in recent days, reaching out to young and minority voters through interviews with Spanish-language radio, black radio and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart just in the past week. His rally in Bridgeport, CT, on Saturday afternoon featured hip hop music mogul Russell Simmons as the emcee and the rapper Common performed at his evening rally in Chicago and again in Cleveland today.
He kicked off this last weekend of campaigning Saturday morning with short pep talk for campaign volunteers at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he challenged canvassers to knock on 20,000 doors during the weekend.
"We are in a difficult election," he told the group. "It's difficult here in Pennsylvania; it is difficult all across the country and unless each and every one of you turn out and get your friends to turn out and get your families to turn out, then we could fall short and all the progress that we've made over the last couple years can be rolled back, so the key right now is not just to show up here, is not just to listen to speeches, it's to go out there and do the hard work that's gonna be required to bring this home over the last few days."
He called on the volunteers to visit beauty shops and barber shops and churches to try to drive turnout. At the Ohio rally, Biden suggested Democrats email their friends about voting and give people rides to the polls.
In Chicago Saturday night, the president told the crowd gathered in the Hyde Park neighborhood, a stone's throw from his own home, that he needed their help to "finish what we started in 2008." As he stumped for Gov. Pat Quinn and for Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, who is locked in a tight race to fill the seat the president vacated when he took office, he took a page from his book of lofty campaign rhetoric to talk about what this election means for the future of the country.
"I need you to get out and vote in this election," he said. "Because if you do, if you're willing to step up, if you're willing to try, we won't just win this election. Pat won't just win this election. Alexi won't just win this election. But we will restore our economy; e will rebuild the middle class and we will reclaim the American Dream for another generation and generations to come."