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A supporter gives President Barack Obama a 'thumbs-up' during a campaign event Thursday at the Carillon at Byrd Park in Richmond, one stop on an eight-state blitz.
Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaks to supporters during a Thursday rally in Bristol before heading to Charlottesville
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
RICHMOND--Hoarse from a whirlwind six-state tour in the waning days of the campaign, President Barack Obama rallied an estimated 15,000 supporters in Richmond Thursday, asking them to return him to the White House in less than two weeks.
"You want to know that whoever's in the Oval Office will fight for you," Obama said. "You know me. You know I say what I mean and I mean what I say. You know I'm thinking about you, and I'm fighting for your families."
Obama told the crowd he's kept promises and improved things in office--he mentioned repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, passing health care reform and finding and killing Osama bin Laden, among others.
"On issue after issue we are going forward," Obama said. "We've come too far to turn back now. We've got to go forward with the policies that are getting us out of this mess."
He said he has a plan for a second term that would create jobs, offer tax incentives for companies that create jobs domestically, cut oil imports in half by 2020, and encourage manufacturing of items in the U.S. rather than in countries like China.
"I want to put people back to work here in the U.S.," Obama said.
He also said he wants to hire more math and science teachers, cut the growth of college tuition in half, and reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years.
In a dig at Republican rival Mitt Romney, Obama said he's proud to talk about his plan because "the arithmetic works."
Obama told the crowd to read the full plan on his campaign website.
"I want you to have the information you need to make an educated choice," he said.
Obama criticized Republicans on women's reproductive rights, saying he doesn't think "any male politician should be making decisions for women."
And he mocked Romney by reviving a line about "Romnesia" that first debuted a week or two ago, suggesting Romney changes his positions on issues.
"If you can't remember what you said just a week ago, if you can't remember the plans on your own website you might be coming down with a case of Romnesia," Obama said. "I want you to know, Obamacare covers pre-existing conditions. All you've got to do is vote."
The Romney campaign fired back with an email response saying that Obama has proposed cuts to the military and done nothing to avert additional defense cuts that would come through the debt-ceiling deal approved last year.
"President Obama says that 'trust matters,' but Virginians already know that he cannot be trusted to protect our military or our economy," said a statement from Romney's Virginia communications director Curt Cashour. "Under President Obama, our military stands to be cut by nearly $1 trillion and he has no plan whatsoever to save the 136,000 Virginia jobs that could be eliminated because of his cuts."
Obama came to Richmond from a morning rally in Tampa and left for one in Chicago, where he also planned to become the first president to vote early. The campaign has put a lot of emphasis on early voting in recent days, but the fact that voters are already going to polls means a late campaign push like this one can't wait until the days right before the election.
Obama's stop in Virginia on what the campaign billed as a tour of "battleground" states suggests the campaign still considers Virginia to be in play, although Obama's slight polling lead here evaporated after the first presidential debate.
Obama carried Virginia in 2008, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had done so since the 1960s.
That helped make Virginia a swing state this year, a status that brought with it a glut of campaign ads and frequent candidate visits.
Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan was in Virginia Thursday also, for rallies in Bristol and Charlottesville, and Romney is due back in Richmond for a rally on Sunday.
The Obama Richmond rally drew a large crowd--15,000, according to the Richmond fire department. People lined up hours early to enter the fenced-off expanse of grass in front of the city's Carillon at Byrd Park. Long shadeless hours led to a number of supporters succumbing to heat exhaustion and being carried out by medics.
But when Obama arrived, the crowd was enthusiastic, cheering and chanting "four more years."
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028