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Campaign speech fires up Obama faithful

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 06:38 PM
TAMPA -

Lakeisha Hall wanted to hear what President Barack Obama had to say about stimulating the economy.

Elaine Wilson wanted to know how he would maintain the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court throws out the individual mandate.

What they got was part pep rally, part revival meeting on Friday afternoon at Hillsborough Community College, with Obama urging them again and again to get behind him for a second term.

"I need you to still believe in me," he said. The crowd roared.

"Let's finish what we started." More cheers and applause.

When it was over and the crowd of about 2,500 people poured out into the rain, Melvin Cheeseboro said, "I'm ready to knock down some doors."

Edna Rainey said she was so excited she called out several times, "I love you. I love you, President Obama."

Pasco-Hernando Community College student Bambi Bernbaum said that when Obama walked onto the stage, she started crying.

She and the others had been waiting for hours to get in, standing in long lines that wound around the HCC campus buildings.

Once inside, they heard a parade of speakers, including U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who got a cheer out of the line "infrastructure really matters."

Buckhorn highlighted the crowd's diversity.

"We're black, we're white, we're Hispanic. We're young, we're not so young. We're gay. We're straight. We're wealthy. We aspire to be wealthy," he said.

"We look like America and we're stronger because of it."

The crowd was well oiled by the time Obama sauntered onto the stage and began a broad-ranging campaign speech that stuck to the themes he's outlined before.

People called out in response to several lines.

Challenging Republican candidate Mitt Romney's free-market approach, Obama said, "There's no mystery about where the other side will take us." And someone yelled, "The ditch."

"The market can't solve all our problems on its own," Obama said. And several answered back, "That's right."

Of all the issues Obama covered, gay rights and protecting a woman's right to chose drew some of the loudest cheers and applause. The audience also cheered Obama's plan to offer tax credits to companies that keep jobs in the United States.

Megan Goldberg, a University of Central Florida student, came to see Obama because she was curious, she said. Unlike most of the others in the crowd she wasn't a committed fan of the president.

But "I was blown away" by the speech "and how he believes in us," she said. "It was really inspiring."

Will she join the campaign?

"I'm definitely considering it."


lpeterson@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7834 Twitter @TBO_USFetc

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