WINTERSVILLE - No Republican presidential candidate since 1856 has won election to the White House without carrying Ohio, and that's a trend former President Bill Clinton said he is trying to make sure continues.
Surrounded by about 1,000 people, Clinton delivered 40-minute speech Thursday at Indian Creek High School that compared President Barack Obama's four years in office to what Republican candidate Mitt Romney wants to do if elected.
"Why support the president? His arguments are clear. The economy is going in the right direction," Clinton said, adding the unemployment rate has dropped more under Obama since Clinton himself was in office.
Former President Bill Clinton delivered a campaign speech in support of President Barack Obama Thursday at Indian Creek High School in Wintersville. (Photo by Michael D. McElwain)
"Romney all of a sudden cares about you. 'I'm a jobs guy,'" Clinton said quoting and sometimes mocking Romney.
Clinton said Romney will increase the national debt with his ideas on tax cuts.
"If someone hired you to fill a hole, would you make it deeper before you start to fill it in?" Clinton asked.
Clinton speaks to a packed house
By LINDA HARRIS
Special to The Review
WINTERSVILLE - At 87, Andy DiPalma could certainly have found something at home to keep him busy.
Instead, the Steubenville resident was standing in the Indian Creek High School auditorium Thursday, one of hundreds of area residents who waited for hours for a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton talk presidential politics.
DiPalma said he didn't mind the wait.
"Obama's my man," the World War II veteran said, a smile lighting his face. "I think he's got a good start and he wants to do the job. He's for the regular people - that's what I fought for."
It was a diverse crowd that greeted the former president: All ages, all races, all applauding wildly when he broached topics near and dear to the hearts of Ohio Valley residents - health care, Medicare, coal, education.
Belinda Puchajda of Lisbon said there was never any doubt that she'd be there.
"My mother adored him," she said, a picture of her mother pressed against her side. "She passed away April 27. A friend of mine went to the inauguration and asked my mom if he could bring something back for her. She said, 'Yeah, Bill Clinton.' She just loved him."
Puchajda, 48, said she's worried about funding for education and creating more jobs, "union jobs," and said she likes what she's hearing from the Democratic camp.
"Unions are what built America," she said. "We need to stand behind them and support them."
Dewighca Dawson, a Steubenville resident, thought it important enough to be there to witness a bit of history in the making that she brought her three children - ages 17, 10 and 6.
"It's the chance of a lifetime," said Dawson, 35. "I wasn't alive when Kennedy was president. I actually went back and did some research. I think Obama has a lot of the same qualities Kennedy had. I know a lot of African-Americans vote for him because he's black, but I'm voting for him because he's the better candidate. It has nothing to do with race."
Wheeling residents Bobbi Taylor and her 21-year-old daughter, Angela, said they love Clinton, "and we want to support Obama because of health care."
"It's very important to me," said Angela, who suffers from auto-immune disorders and arthritis. "I'm not insurable. My brain is healthy, my body sucks. I want to own my own business in the future, and I want to be able to take charge of my own health care and my employees' health care."
Alex Lyons, a Steubenville resident, clutched a copy of Clinton's autobiography under one arm, hoping for a chance to get the ex-president to autograph it.
"He seems like such an ordinary person," Lyons said. "He plays the sax, he's down to earth. I'm a fan of Bill Clinton, but I already voted for Obama."
Jean Isler of Steubenville gave the former president high marks for his remarks, "especially on health care."
"My husband has diabetes," Isler said. "We've been dealing with it for years. I also have a friend fighting for Medicare. What he said about Medicare, about health care - that's what I wanted to hear. When I get to that age, I want to know it's going to be there for me, too."
Linda Pickenpaugh of Belmont said the idea of staying home never crossed her mind.
"Rain wasn't going to keep us away," she said. "Why? Because this country is important to me. I think he clearly delineated the major differences between the two candidates, the main one being that what Romney proposes is returning to the same policies that got us into economic problems in the first place. We're headed toward recovery now - it's a difficult process, it's going to be slow, but it's happening."
Afterwards, Indian Creek Superintendent John Rocchi said it had been a challenge, "but I think the outcome is positive for our community."
"Being able to see a former president of the United States here - I think it's the first time in the school's history that we've had someone of that stature," Rocchi said. "That's the positive we're looking at. We're not supporting one party or another, we just want people to get out and vote."
Barb Terry, a Mingo Junction resident and Indian Creek employee, clutched a copy of a memoir written by her sister-in-law, Carlotta Walls Lanier, on the Little Rock Seven, which included a foreward written by Clinton himself.
"Look," she said proudly. "He signed it ... 'To Barb: Carlotta's wonderful.' That means the world to me. For him to write that ... I can't wait to call Carlotta and tell her."
And Terry said she loved Clinton's speech
"I was so inspired," she said. "He nailed it, everything he said. He did a wonderful job. It brought tears to my eyes just to be here."
The former president said Romney's tax cuts would increase the national debt, which Clinton believes will result in taxes being raised, especially on middle-income Americans.
Clinton, calling Romney's budget proposals "hide and seek," would result in cuts to Medicare. He said working parents of children born with medical conditions would have to quit work to get benefits for their children.
"It will hurt the country and make us weaker," Clinton said.
In addressing Romney's statement that 47 percent of American's don't pay income taxes, Clinton said 60 percent of those people are working people with children. He said the tax code allows those working parents not to pay taxes, adding it helps those people avoid poverty.
Clinton said in the 32 months since the end of the recession, 5.3 million private jobs have been created by the Obama administration, compared to 2.6 million jobs created in seven years under former President George W. Bush. He said no president can fix the economy in four years, considering the condition of the economy. He said unemployment is now under 8 percent.
"It took 12 years after the Great Depression to get out of the Depression. Why would we want to sail back into the storm?" Clinton said.
He said manufacturing jobs have grown for the first time since the 1990s.
"We can bring manufacturing back to America."
Clinton cited 250,000 more jobs in Ohio in the auto industry. He said the auto industry was facing bankruptcy, which also would have had an impact on auto parts and suppliers to the industry.
"(Obama) saved 1 million jobs, with 250,000 more in Ohio, and Romney opposed it. It was the best decision of Obama in his first term," he said.
"When the state was facing economic ruin, Barack Obama had your back. You need to have his back today," Clinton said.
Clinton spoke about student loans and Obama's plans to have students pay back the loans based on a percentage of their income over 20 years.
Clinton said health care costs increased only 4 percent last year, the lowest in several years.
"We as Americans need to bring health care costs in line with inflation."
Clinton said companies can't give workers pay raises because of the increases in health care costs.
"We can't allow this to happen. This is another reason to elect Obama."
Clinton believes Obama did a much better job in his first term than he has been given credit for, especially concerning the economy.
"We are coming out of this. I'm telling you that you are going to feel it. The last thing we need to do is to go back to a policy we know will fail, knowing that the debt is going to be a problem. Are we going to adopt another hide-and-seek budget? I don't think so. Let's vote for four more years of a strategy that is building a strategy for 21st century prosperity.
"Tell the people that aren't here that they don't have to give up hope. All your tomorrows don't have to be like yesterday. We can make a new tomorrow," he said.
"For 200 years people have been saying America's been washed up. People have been counting this country out for 200 years. Every single soul that has done it has lost money. I'm betting on you and America's future and Barack Obama," he said.
Clinton spent time after his speech shaking hands with people in the front row.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland introduced Clinton by saying the former president is the most recognized and respected world leader that took the country's deficit and turned it into a surplus and a balanced budget and worked to pay off the debt.
Strickland, like Clinton, mocked Romney's 47 percent comment.
"Most of us are part of the 47 percent, are we not? We are proud Americans. I will not support a man who looks down his nose and talks disrespectful. He talks of us a takers and not givers," Strickland said.
The former Democratic governor said the 47 percent is made up of veterans who served their country and senior citizens who worked and paid into Social Security.
Strickland said Romney as governor of Massachusetts was against coal.
"Coal miners who vote for Mitt Romney are like chickens who vote for Col. Sanders, and we know what Col. Sanders does to chickens."