Los Angeles – In the latest appearance of his week-long midterms blitz, Obama slammed Republicans, saying “their whole strategy is amnesia.” Obama was speaking at the biggest political events of the campaign, rallying nearly 37,000 at the University of Southern California in south-central Los Angeles Friday afternoon.
It was the president’s first political visit to the nation’s second largest city in a long 19 months. But he came with a specific mission: to buoy a Democratic congressional campaign threatened by a possible Republican tsunami in November. In short, the Democrats have called in the heavy artillery in what should be a locked-down blue state.
Against U-2 soundtrack and a loud ovation, a jacket-less and emotionally-charged Obama took the stage and rolled out his signature line from the apex of his 2008 campaign: “I’m fired up!”
“We need all of you fired up, we all need you ready to go,” he said, challenging the crowd to “defy the conventional wisdom” that apathy has set in among the young. “You will have the chance to say ‘Yes, we can!” Obama cried, reprising the slogan he rode to victory two years ago.
Denouncing the bleak economic situation he inherited coming into office, Obama tried to reassure crowd that while there still might be tough times ahead, his policies are slowly turning things around. He admitted that his hopes for bipartisan efforts to confront the economic downturn were met with Republican intransigence.
“The Republican leaders in Washington made a different calculation… they looked at the mess they left me and said this a really big mess,” said an impassioned Obama. “So maybe if we just sit on the sidelines and point our finger at Obama you would forget they made the mess in the first place.”
Obama argued, in short, that the coming election is a choice between the past and the future rather than a referendum on his first two years in office.
There was also a smattering of celebrities on the dais, including an exuberant Jamie Foxx who led the crowd in a chant of “Vote! Democrat!”
Obama supporters and Democratic activists waited for hours and withstood long lines under tight security to attend the USC rally. Even credentialed media had to wait for more than 90 minutes to get into the site, given the crush of the crowd.
As Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A” blared on the speakers, Aubrey Relf, a 32-year-old doctoral student at USC, told the media she was heartened by the buzz of the event. "People came here at 5 o’clock in the morning," she said.
It wasn’t just USC students who attended the rally, but also delegations and groups from local churches and schools. There was also a strong turn-out of African-Americans, a key Democratic constituency.
Students and youth are obviously targeted constituencies but so are Latinos. No accident, then, that the rally itself was kicked off by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who took the podium and praised the diversity of the City of Angeles. “This is the city who doesn’t care who your Daddy is,” he said. “Or in the light of the recent court ruling, if you have two Daddies.” That last reference was to the recent judicial flip-flopping over enforcement of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell military policy – a policy which the Obama administration has vowed to repeal on his watch but whose Justice Department is nonetheless defending.