FAIRFAX, Va. — What a difference a Labor Department report with a 7.8 percent unemployment rate makes.
Or, what a shock to the system Wednesday night was for the Obama camp.
Whatever the impetus, President Obama showed up to a rally here on Friday morning hyped up, in attack mode, and primed with the lines that were absent — to the chagrin of diehard Democrats and the befuddlement of others — from this week’s disastrous debate versus Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
“This morning, we found out that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level since I took office,” he proudly declared after taking the stage 20 minutes past schedule, bringing the crowd jumping to its feet. “…Today’s news certainly is not an excuse to try to talk down the economy to score a few political points. It’s a reminder that this country has come too far to turn back now.”
Risers full of women were carefully assembled behind the president, getting a pep talk from staffers and pitching blue “Forward” signs when Obama came on. Someone in the audience blew bubbles in the air as the crowd cheered wildly for their candidate. The national anthem was performed by Mary Millben, promoted as an “active member of Republicans for Obama.” The president was introduced by Katherine Waddell, a former Virginia House delegate and independent who said that the GOP had moved too far to the right for her to stay active in the party.
“There’s just no room for me in today’s radical Republican Party,” Waddell said, calling the GOP “so far to the extreme right, especially when it comes to women’s health, I don’t recognize it anymore.”
The rally was billed as a grass-roots women’s event, but current events altered the focus a bit: namely, the bad debate and the better jobs report, for which Obama was taking his first victory lap.
Equipped with his trusty teleprompter and facing an enthusiastic crowd rather than his Republican opponent and sleepy Jim Lehrer, Obama’s claws also came out.
“My opponent, you know, has been trying to do a two-step and reposition and got an extreme makeover,” Obama said. “…He thinks that if we just spend another $5 trillion on tax cuts, that, yes, skew towards the wealthiest, if we get rid of more regulations on Wall Street, then our problems will be solved. Jobs and prosperity will rain down from the sky, the deficits will magically disappear, we will live happily ever after.”
Then the president veered to the Democrats’ — and Twitter’s — main takeaway from the first debate.
“When he was asked what he’d actually do to cut spending and reduce the deficit, his big example was to go after public television,” Obama said. “So for all you moms and kids out there, don’t worry, somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird. Rounding him up. Elmo’s got to watch out, too.”
“Governor Romney plans to let Wall Street run wild again, but he’s going to bring down the hammer on Sesame Street. It makes perfect sense.”
The Obama campaign alerted reporters to keep an eye out for Big Bird at Romney’s rally in Abingdon, Va., today. Sure enough, someone in a fuzzy yellow bird suit was pitching a sign reading “crack down on Wall Street, not Sesame Street” outside Romney’s event in the rural southwestern corner of the state.
“The other night, he said he’d repeal Obamacare as soon as he took office. Don’t boo. Vote. Vote. Vote,” Obama continued against Romney. “But after he said that, then he back-tracked and said, ‘No, wait, at least I’ll make sure to cover folks with preexisting conditions.’ And then I — I explained, well, actually, your plan doesn’t do that. And then his campaign had to come out and say, ‘Actually, that’s not true; our plan wouldn’t do that.’ So, Governor Romney was fact-checked by his own campaign. That’s rough. That’s rough.”
“Governor Romney said he’d get rid of Planned Parenthood funding. Apparently, this, along with Big Bird, is driving the deficit. … My opponent has called himself severely conservative, but let me tell you something, there’s nothing conservative about a government that prevents a woman from making her own health care decisions.”
“Governor Romney talks about freedom, but freedom is the ability to determine the care you need when you need it. Freedom is the ability to change jobs or start your own business without the fear of losing your health insurance. Freedom is the knowledge that you’ll no longer be charged more than men for the same health care, or denied affordable coverage just because you’ve beat cancer,” Obama continued.
The president dropped the magic number that mysteriously was missing from his debate arguments, infuriating supporters who wanted him to use the undercover video of a donor’s meeting against Romney.
Change, Obama said, “certainly can’t happen if you’re willing to write off half the nation before you even take office.”