President Barack Obama looked to begin his rebound from his loss in the first debate with a rally on Bascom Hill, and he did not disappoint.
According to officers I talked to at the event, 30,000 people turned out for the president, with even more turned away at the door. It was definitely a packed hill, where we spent more than three hours waiting for Obama in the rain and occasional sunshine. We got both, and it made the whole wait worthwhile.
I was interested to see how Obama would use what had happened in the debate against presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Massachusetts, to update his usual campaign speeches. We were still treated to some of his more usual rhetoric, like doing some nation-building at home and wanting to recruit 100,000 new math and science teachers. But we also got to see a response to the debate against a man whom Obama opened the speech calling “this very spirited fellow claiming to be Mitt Romney.”
The president continued his attack on Romney’s tax plan, saying, “The real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. And yet, the fellow on the stage last night who looked like Mitt Romney said he did not know anything about that. It was all news to him.”
This received some laughs from the crowd but didn’t really add anything to the conversation from the debate the night before. I thought Obama finally said something he didn’t during the debate when he brought up Romney’s plan to cut funding to PBS.
“When he was asked what he would do to actually cut spending and reduce the deficit, he said he’d eliminate public television funding,” Obama said. “I just want to make sure I got this straight. He’ll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he’s going to crack down on Sesame Street. Thank goodness somebody is finally cracking down on Big Bird.”
That was by far his funniest moment, and it raised a relevant response to both Romney’s desire to repeal Dodd-Frank and his lackluster answer to deficit reduction. PBS currently accounts for .012 percent of the federal budget. Astrophysicist and defender of all things science and education Neil deGrasse Tyson made the point on twitter that cutting PBS to balance the federal budget is “like deleting text files to make room on your 500g hard drive.”
For those of us who have been following the campaigns up until now, most of the speech wasn’t anything that hasn’t been said before. Among other things, Obama attacked Romney for shipping jobs overseas and trying to present a different image at the debate than who the “real Mitt Romney” had been for the last year.
The president needed to start getting back on track after a tough first debate. Getting out the base for a successful rally in Madison was a good start. But I think the president needs to take some of the barbs he had for Romney on Bascom and get them into the debates. For the people who survived the elements and the wait on Thursday, though, it’s safe to say they got what they came for.
John Waters ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism.