As the nation continues to rebuild from the economic shocks of 2008, Obama said it has a choice: to pursue policies that he contends will help the middle class and poor move up or return to deregulation, tax cuts for the rich and other policies that he said contributed to the meltdown and would only help the rich.
“Yes, our mission right now is to put people back to work, strengthen housing,” Obama said. “But our purpose is also to rebuild our economy so that it lasts. So that work pays off. So if you are starting a business or punching a clock, you can have confidence that if you work hard, you can get ahead.”
Obama appeared before a crowd of about 900 outside the Walkerton Tavern, a Henrico County historic site believed to have served as a field hospital for Union cavalrymen. Rain aside, the handsome 19th-century brick home, decked out in red-white-and-blue bunting and an enormous flag, was a postcard-perfect setting — one conveniently located in critical swing region.
Like Virginia as a whole, Henrico County has become more racially and socio-economically diverse in recent years, turning reliable Republican country into tossup territory.
“Welcome to blue Henrico!” state Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) declared as the program kicked off.
Obama’s visit came on the second day of his two-day swing through Virginia. He campaigned in Hampton Roads and Roanoke on Friday and headed for a Northern Virginia high school after his Henrico appearance.
One day before Obama came to Henrico, Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign dispatched a high-profile surrogate to the county. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani attended the grand opening of a campaign office there. Pete Snyder, chairman of the GOP’s 2012 Virginia Victory Campaign, told the crowd Friday that Henrico was “the number one battleground in the number one battleground state.”
On Saturday, the first roll of thunder arrived as the Richmond Boys Choir began the program with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The skies opened as they got to “the home of the brave.” A few dozen in the crowd found shelter in a gazebo, but most stayed put, braving lightning and the sort of soak-’em-to-the-skin downpour that in the Deep South would be called frog strangler. The rain ebbed and flowed throughout Obama’s remarks but did not let up completely until after he left the stage.
“The lightning, the thunder — it didn’t matter; Henrico is for President Obama,” said Carolyn B. Singleton, a Henrico poet.
Obama, smiling broadly, his light blue shirt drenched, made light of the downpour.
“Ladies, I do apologize for your hairdos getting messed up,” he said at one point. “I know this from Michelle.”