ATHENS-More than 14,000 people packed onto the College Green at Ohio University in Athens where President Barack Obama made a campaign stop late Wednesday afternoon.
Bright blue-and-white signs, large and small, were posted across campus with the now familiar campaign message, "Forward, BarackObama.com."
Marietta Mayor Joe Matthews helped kick off the event by leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.
ROBB DeCAMP Special to the Times
President Barack Obama waves to supporters who filled Ohio University’s College Green late Wednesday afternoon during a campaign stop in Southeast Ohio.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland roused the crowd prior to the president's address, saying Obama's performance during Tuesday's debate with Republican challenger Mitt Romney "made us proud to be Democrats."
"He was direct, strong, and held Gov. Romney accountable for anything said that wasn't true," Strickland said.
The former governor criticized Romney's business interests in foreign countries.
- Washington County Commit to Mitt Early Vote Express Stop.
- Friday at 1:45 p.m., 205 Putnam St. near the Washington County Courthouse.
- Speakers include Tagg Romney, son of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, U.S. Sixth District Congressman Bill Johnson and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel.
More photos from the Athens stop in Thursday's print edition.
"Any man who wants to be president should have both his treasury and his heart in the United States of America," Strickland said, noting that projects like the local Nelsonville bypass were funded with money from the America's Reinvestment and Recovery Act during the Obama Administration.
"No Republican has ever won the presidency without winning in Ohio," he added. "And no Republican is going to win the presidency this year."
The Athens event was the second campaign stop of the day for Obama, who had visited Mount Vernon, Iowa, earlier on Wednesday.
The President took the stage as the crowd repeatedly shouted "Four more years."
"I want your vote," Obama began. "I'm not too proud to beg-I want your vote."
He reminded Ohio voters they're able to cast their votes for him right now, due to the state's early voting system.
"We had our second presidential debate last night, and I'm still trying to get the hang of this," Obama said. "Gov. Romney continues to run around talking about his five-point plan."
There were loud "boos" from the crowd.
"Don't boo-vote," Obama responded.
He said Romney's five-point plan to improve the nation was really just a one-point plan, giving tax breaks to the rich.
"The fellows at the very top get to play by different rules than you," Obama said. "That's the same philosophy that got us in this mess in the first place. We cannot fix this economy from the top down."
He said Romney has promised to create 12 million new jobs over the next four years if elected, but noted Romney's investments in companies overseas.
"Mitt Romney is trying to sell you a sketchy deal-the same deal as the previous administration," Obama said. "We've tried that and it doesn't work."
The president touted his own tax cut of $3,600 for middle-income families over the last four years, and noted small businesses have received tax cuts 18 times during the same period.
Defending the bailout of the U.S. auto industry, Obama said that money has been paid back.
"We got every dime back from those bailouts, and we've passed laws to end them," he said, noting nearly 155,000 Ohio auto industry jobs were saved.
"But we've got more work to do," Obama said. "There are too many folks still looking for work, who can't pay their bills."
He said his plan over the next four years is to bring U.S. troops home from the Middle East and invest the money saved in this country's economy, exporting more American-made products and importing less from companies overseas.
And when U.S. soldiers return, the president said they should not have to continue sacrificing for the country in order to pay bills or keep a roof over their heads. He said his grandfather fought in World War II and came home to the GI Bill that paid for a college education.
"That was not only good for him, but it was good for the whole country. The entire country prospered and succeeded because those men succeeded," Obama said. "That's the kind of America we need."
He also touched on women's rights.
"We should make a very simple concept the rule-equal pay for equal work," Obama said. "This isn't a women's issue, it's a federal issue."
The crowd cheered loudly.
In closing comments, the president told the crowd, "Only you have the power to keep us moving forward. I'm only in Washington because of you."
The crowd of thousands who attended Wednesday's event included several hundred from the Washington County area, according to Molly Varner, chair of the Washington County Democratic Party.
"We had 200 tickets to hand out Sunday, and they were gone that afternoon," she said. "We obtained 100 more from another county, and those were also depleted before we received more on Tuesday."
Varner estimated between 300 and 400 people from the local area were in attendance Wednesday.
"That's a lot more than I expected," she said. "Especially from Marietta and Washington County which have a reputation of being Republican strongholds."
Jim and Shirley Moore traveled to Athens from Ironton to take part in the president's campaign event.
"Ohio's a swing state. Whoever takes Ohio in this election will get to be president," Jim said. "Obama hasn't done everything he promised, but he was unable to do some things because the Republicans (in Congress) have been against him. But he's for the middle class, and I think that's good."
"I like him," she said of Obama. "And I'd like to see him in office for another four years."