President Barack Obama warned the George Mason University community Friday that voting for Mitt Romney would mean a return to top-down economics and social freedoms predating Roe v. Wade.
About 1,935 supporters and media packed the Center for the Arts at GMU's Fairfax campus for the rally, the first of two planned presidential stops Friday in Virginia and Ohio, both considered key battleground states.
The presidential appearance came just hours after the Department of Labor announced the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month — the lowest national unemployment rate in the past four years and a figure that could help boost Obama's re-election campaign, experts said.
“Today's news is not an excuse to talk down the economy to score a few political points,” Obama said. “It's a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now, seen too much pain, too much struggle to let this country get hit by another round of top-down economics.”
Amid Big Bird jabs — a shot at Republican challenger Mitt Romney's remarks about cutting public broadcast funding — and thunderous applause, Obama emphasized the need to invest in small business, recruit math and science teachers, bring down the cost of college tuition and cut oil imports in half. He boasted the positive impact his health reform has had on struggling families: according to his campaign, 2.3 million Virginia residents have coverage that includes free preventive services like immunizations, mammograms and Pap smears.
Before the president took the stage, former Gov. and U.S. Senate Candidate Tim Kaine and Del. Eileen Filler-Corn supported the president's views on boosting the middle class, and investing in infrastructure and innovation.
But the focus of the day, as evidenced by the crowd of women waving Forward signs behind Obama, was a woman's right to receive an equal wage and make her own health decisions.
“Decisions that affect a woman's health aren't up to politicians or insurance companies, they're up to you,” Obama said, who mentioned his Equal Pay legislation, which allows workers to sue against wage discrimination, and health reform. “A student shouldn't have to choose between textbooks and the care she needs.”
Former Virginia House Delegate Katherine Waddell touted the president's views on preserving women's rights.
Waddell, an Independent who represented the Richmond suburbs from 2006-2008, told the crowd she barely recognized the Republican party.
“Instead of trying to tackle the deficit, [Republicans] focus on forcing women to undergo invasive medical procedures we don't need,” she said. “They try to ban commonly used forms of birth control and abortion in terms of rape. There's no way a pro-choice woman like me could vote Romney. I grew up before Roe v. Wade and there's no way I'd let him take my daughters and granddaughters back in time.”
Annandale resident Jane Wilson held back tears during most of Obama's speech. She and her 10-year-old daughter, Sara, almost missed their chance to attend the Mason event.
“I'm very passionate about Obama,” Jane said. “He's an amazing and inspiring person. To see him up close. For my daughter to see him up close... He's not just a good speaker. It's in him. He cares.”
She carried a small notebook that Sara plans to write in about her experience for school.
“He's empowering,” Sara said. “He's the right president.”
Patch will be providing more pictures and coverage from Friday's event later today.
PatchChat Live: Obama Campaigns Friday at GMU