PITTSBURGH — The large crowd gathered on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University here Friday was already hot from the baking sun by the time President Obama showed up to give the last speech of his campaign swing through Ohio and Pennsylvania. But Obama still found a way to fire them up, casting his reelection campaign as a battle of visions with Republicans and their nominee Mitt Romney.
The campaign reported 6,500 turned out to see Obama, making the last stop of the president’s bus swing one of the largest. The scorching heat provided the drama of the day, as fainting spectators were hauled out on stretchers by first responders. On stage, Obama delivered a similar speech to the one he used across his bus tour, shouting out his accomplishments and painting Republicans as angling to throw the country into reverse.
“Why would we want to go backwards to the same theory if it not work before?” Obama said. “They are banking on the fact that you do not remember what happened when they were in charge.”
Obama said his vision included investments in education, green energy and more legislative action in the spirit of his health care law.
“My vision is one that says we have got to invest in our young people so that they get the best education in the world,” he said.
The sharp, targeted message — and the focus on what he’s done, particularly on health care — were received well by the crowd. Before Obama spoke, attendees sweating it out in the afternoon sun grumbled that the president hadn’t done enough to sell his health care law, and called on his campaign to hone its message.
“I think he could approach the whole thing with more explanations,” said Barbara Hoberman, a native of Spain (now a Pittsburgh resident) who voted for Obama in 2008 and plans to do so again.
Though Obama captivated voters with his post-partisan rhetoric in 2008, voters here said they were happy to see him embrace some tougher language.
“When I get excited it’s when I see him really doing what he believes, like going against the Congress,” Hoberman said. “When I see him trying to make everybody happy, that’s when I don’t like him.”
She captured the spirit of other attendees TPM spoke with at Carnegie Mellon when she praised Obama broadly before veering off into complaints. On health care, Hoberman said Obama needs to do a better job telling the public what his law did.
“They’re afraid because of their ignorance about what it’s about,” she said.
Hoberman was standing next to Maria Osio, a native of Argentina and 2008 Obama supporter who explained that for Democrats this time, Obama more pragmatic than exciting. Obama’s description of competing visions — warning that a vote for Romney would be a vote to take the country backward — fit that idea.
“If everything is OK [with a candidate you support], you are just following a leader,” she said.