First lady’s visit fires up Miami crowd

The 1932-built gymnasium echoed cheers, chants and songs from the Miami University Marching Band, and the school’s glee club and gospel singers. The crowd of 2,600 erupted when the First Lady came out, after being introduced by 18-year-old Miami freshman Alex Ponikvar.

“It’s clear President Obama is fighting for me and every student here at Miami University,” said the Cleveland-area native who has worked on the Obama campaign.

On the weekend before Election Day, Obama hit on a variety of campaign issues her husband has addressed during his bid for a second term: women’s issues, education, job creation, the economy, ending the Iraq war, killing Osama bin Laden and health care.

She also referenced Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s plan to cut public television funding: “Cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance a budget.”

The first lady also pushed the importance of early voting.

“This election is going to be closer than the one four years ago. And it comes down to a few key battleground states, especially in Ohio,” she said. “One vote in a neighborhood would make a difference, one vote in an apartment building, or one vote in a dorm room can make a difference of how our country goes.”

The Obama-Biden won Ohio in 2008 by more than 262,000 votes, which the first lady equates to 24 votes per precinct. Counties in some of the state’s largest cities — Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton — led the way for the Democrats to win Ohio.

Butler County Republican Party Chairman Dave Kern said the campaign stop was a last attempt to reduce the percentage Romney will take the GOP-dominated county.

“It’s well known and the Democrats know we’re trying to overcome the liberal vote in Cuyahoga County,” said Kern. “They want to whittle down the county (vote) by several percentage points. And they’re not going to do it.”

Four years ago, the Obama-Biden ticket garnered 37.9 percent of the county vote as the McCain-Palin ticket received 60.5 percent.

Most of the polls show Obama leading in Ohio and the nation, but many of those polls are within their 3 percent margins of error. Key states polls show Obama leading include Ohio, Wisconsin and Colorado. Polls indicate Romney leads in Virgina, North Carolina and Florida.

Kern said he believes Ohio will go to Romney based on the excitement of the presidential candidate’s supporters demonstrated at an event Friday at The Square @ Union Centre in West Chester Twp. Crowds were estimated to be at 30,000, but Kern said another 10,000 were outside the gates of the event listening to the rally.

Saturday was the second time Miami has been a backdrop for the 2012 presidential campaign. In August, just after being tapped as the GOP vice presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan returned to his alma mater.

The Obama campaign came to Miami because it “has been the center of some of the university politics over the last several months in Ohio,” said Jessica Kershaw, press secretary for the Ohio Obama campaign.

“Students here I think are very engaged in the political process, are curious about what the candidates have to say and so we certainly want to make sure that the first lady has an opportunity to talk about the choice in the election,” she said. “There are a number of first-time voters that we’re talking to and making sure we’re getting involved and making sure they vote early, and if not early certainly on Election Day.”

Alex Tirrell, a junior political science major at Miami, said “it’s pretty key” for women to support Obama. She said the Romney-Ryan stance on abortion rights are key factors for her.

“It’s pretty scary to me as a woman because that’s a direct violation to my control of my own body and own health,” said the 20-year-old Connecticut native. “Obama will preserve my right to make decisions for my own body.”

She also supports Obama’s initiatives for environmental controls and climate change, especially in light of Hurricane Sandy that’s devastated the East Coast.

Middletown native and 1963 Miami graduate Bob Hart said he doesn’t want to see the clock rolled back to policies of a decade or two ago.

“That’s their objective,” said Hart. “That’s not going to work for this country, and certainly not going to work for me and the ones I love.”

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