In Charlottesville, Obama makes appeal to young voters
Aug 29, 2012 (Richmond Times-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Update: 3:55 p.m.
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- President Barack Obama told an enthusiastic crowd in Charlottesville today that young voters will play a key role in deciding the presidential election.
"I need you," Obama said in animated remarks to a crowd of about 6,500 supporters at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion on the Downtown Mall.
"America needs you to close the gap between what is and what might be," he said. "If we win Virginia we will win this election and we will finish what we started."
Obama took the stage shouting a greeting to University of Virginia fans in the audience.
"Hello Virginia! Go Hoos! Wahoo-wah," the president said.
Obama, who is on a swing state tour of college towns, said the election includes matters of key importance to young votes, such as college affordability.
"When you step into that voting booth, the choice that you make in that instant" will shape the country and the world "for decades to come."
Protesters who could be heard in the distance were drowned out by the crowd, which chanted, "Four more years."
Obama said he could not hear what the protesters were saying, but he's glad they're involved in politics. He told his supporters: "Don't just chant. You've got to vote."
"Your generation will choose not just between two candidates and two political parties," but between two paths for jobs and education, Obama said.
"What makes me confident is you," the president said, paying tribute to the passion and public service of young people.
Using a refrain of "You made that happen" he said young voters' support helped lead to changes such as an end to the war in Iraq, and an end to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for gays and lesbians in the armed forces.
"You believed four years ago that we could put a college education in reach of everybody who is willing to work for it," Obama said referring to his work on college tax credits and on student loans.
He noted that the health care overhaul is enabling more than seven million young people to stay on their parents' health care plans.
"The point, Virginia, is your vote mattered," Obama said. "You can't get tired because we've got more work to do."
Allie Brandenburger, regional press secretary of the Romney campaign, said: "In Virginia today, President Obama continued to offer little outside blame and accusations in an effort to distract voters from his failed policies.
"This is a president whose campaign has continued to level attacks against Governor Romney that have been widely discredited across the political spectrum. In 2008, President Obama promised to change Washington and turn around our economy, yet middle class families are suffering with fewer jobs, higher prices, and declining incomes.
"Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will take the country in a new direction with a Plan for a Stronger Middle Class that cuts taxes, spurs growth, and brings relief to the middle class."
Michael C. Short, Virginia Victory communications director for the Republican National Committee, noted that the crowd today in Charlottesville was smaller than the estimated 12,000 who turned out in 2010 when Obama campaigned for then-Rep. Tom Perriello, D-5th, at the same venue.
"What a difference a couple years toiling in the Obama economy makes," Short said.
Obama will campaign Tuesday in Norfolk before he heads to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
Update: 3 p.m.
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- President Barack Obama's college town tour speech is still roughly 30 minutes away, but thousands of Charlottesville residents have converged on the pedestrian mall to hear him speak at the nTelos Wifeless Pavilion.
A bluegrass band is playing to help keep the crowd entertained and keep minds off the heat and humidity.
The line to get into the open-air theater at one point stretched to the Omni Hotel at the other end of the mall, which is no surprise, since Obama's message is one expected to be well-received in this thriving college town, home to the University of Virginia.
The president is expected to discuss the need to grow the economy by ensuring future workers can afford to get a college degree.
Obama is also expected to encourage attendees, especially young voter-eligible attendees to register to vote, and familiarize themselves with new voter ID regulations that have taken effect in Virginia and other states.
In 2008, Democrats won Virginia for the first time in 44 years, largely on the strength of turnout among new and young voters who came out in record numbers to elect Obama. Strong turnout is again considered critical to Obama's success in this swing state with 13 electoral votes.
Campaign officials note that while in office Obama established a tax credit for college and cut $60 billion in subsidies to banks that served as middlemen for student loans, converting the savings into an expansion of the Pell Grant program.
Officials said an estimated 231,000 Virginia students benefited from the credits in 2011, and more than 192,000 were helped by Pell Grants, including more than 2,000 students at U.Va.
(This has been a breaking news update.)
A crowd has gathered at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion, where President Barack Obama is expected to speak about 3:30.
Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, the U.S. Senate candidate who served as Obama's chairman of the Democratic National Committee from January 2009 to April 2011, also will address the crowd, as will former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-5th. In 2010 Obama campaigned for Perriello at the same venue. Perriello went on to lose his seat to Republican Robert Hurt.
The president is on a two-day tour of college towns in swing states that included stops in Colorado and Iowa. The campaign said that in Charlottesville the president will discuss "the choice for young voters in this election between two fundamentally different visions of how to grow the economy" and the importance of registering to vote.
The Obama campaign scheduled today's event on the Downtown Mall after the University of Virginia declined to host the president's visit. The school said the two campus locations in which the campaign had been interested would have presented an "extraordinary disruption" early in the school year.
Obama last campaigned in Virginia Aug. 2 in Leesburg.
(This has been a breaking news update. Check back for more details as they become available. Read more in tomorrow's Richmond Times-Dispatch.)
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