May 9th, 2012 | Published in Featured
By Jeffrey McClellan
The state of Ohio is going to be getting a lot of visitors during the next six months. With the 2012 Presidential election looming ever closer, both candidates are undoubtedly very much aware of a vital bit of trivia regarding our humble state: in the last 11 elections, no one has achieved the Presidency without Ohio’s endorsement. With this in mind, it stands to reason that Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center would be the venue President Obama would choose for his first official campaign rally of the 2012 campaign.
The President’s campaign slogan for this election season is simple and direct: “Forward.” Reminiscent of last election’s “Hope” slogan, this single word mission statement was emblazoned liberally on signage throughout the stadium, as well as being embedded in many speeches during the rally. Both the message and venue were decidedly directed towards what many feel is President Obama’s core demographic, the much sought after 18-35 crowd. Many interlude videos and messages highlighted this President’s reliance on emerging communication channels, and a banner running the circumference of the stadium listed all of the many, many, MANY social media venues the administration has set up to communicate with the Youtube generation on their own level.
The day’s festivities featured a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Ohio Democratic Party celebrities. Columbus mayor Michael Coleman gave a speech, as did former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Senator Sherrod Brown was present to give momentum to his own re-election bid, and former Senator and astronaut John Glenn gave a particularly engaging speech that he ended with a plain-spoken “Go Buckeyes, and go Obama!” Former Governor Strickland gave an especially on-point message, discussing with the largely college-age crowd the President’s contributions to education funding in this country.
However, the real stars of the afternoon were local Neighborhood Team Leaders Toni Brooks and Michael Flannagan. The passion and dedication displayed by these two young people quite frankly put everyone short of the President himself to shame. Both delivered a number of messages to fill space between the “big name acts”, and both effectively conveyed the message that these elections are not about polls and policies, but people. Between Brooks’ firebrand enthusiasm and Flannagan’s heartfelt personal story, these two local campaign leaders highlighted the issues at stake, and brought them out of the realm of cable news analysis and into the streets and cities of their friends and neighbors.
Before the main event, First Lady Michelle Obama gave a brief talk to set the tone for the upcoming Presidential speech. The First Lady came across as approachable and earnest, yet immaculately well put together (as TCS photographer Carissa Russell noted at the event, her dress was actually coordinated with the event’s signage). She spoke of the President briefly as a statesman, but more as a husband and friend. This dynamic is worth noting, as we have here a First Couple who not only support each other, but actually appear to honestly like each other.
Finally, after a moving rendition of “America the Beautiful”, the OSU Band dove into “Hail to the Chief”, and President Obama hit the podium. As someone who has only seen the President speak on television, I was personally taken aback by how… well, presidential he is. Obama exudes a down-to-earth confident poise which I can’t help but imagine is a trait much desired among elected officials. Whether one agrees with his policies or not, President Obama comes across as someone to whom one would readily entrust their children and sign over their life savings without a second thought.
The President’s remarks were a suitable summary of his presidency to date: the success of the auto bailout, the winding down of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the lapse of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the US military, and even his hotly contested health care bill which is currently working its way through the courts. Over and over, the President sought to frame his opponent as a disengaged millionaire economist, stating of Romney “When a woman in Iowa shared the story of her financial struggles, he responded with economic theory.” There’s no doubt this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the back-and-forth of campaign politics; as both candidates tend to be more centrist than extremist, there’s bound to be plenty of disparagement leveled both ways as the two candidates seek to differentiate themselves from each other.
In the coming months, we’re bound to hear many things from these two presidential candidates: exaltations of promises kept, recriminations of promises broken, furious debates over degrees of policy positions that will affect millions despite their appearance of complete and utter triviality, and as the President remarked during his statement, “sometimes just plain foolishness.” Miniscule niceties of the English language in debates and speeches will be fiercely argued by some of the most analytical minds in American journalism. At OSU’s Schottenstein Center on May 5th though, the mood could not be described better than the impromptu slogan coined during an Obama campaign stop in South Carolina: “Fired up, ready to go.”