President Obama speaks at Tri-C in Cleveland, says election is chance to break stalemate

CLEVELAND - President Barack Obama visited Cleveland Thursday for a campaign stop, saying November's election will give voters the chance to break a stalemate about America's direction

His motorcade arrived at Cuyahoga Community College at 1:42 p.m.

About 1,500 people were seated in bleachers and floor seats inside the campus recreation center, according to a Tri-C official. The Obama campaign had made free tickets available Monday through local field offices and the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party headquarters.

Eight American flags are positioned on stage, in front of a blue curtain and behind a podium decorated with a placard bearing the Obama campaign's "Forward" slogan.

Audience members broke out into intermittent chants of "Fired up, ready to go!" They cheered when U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, a congresswoman from nearby Copley Township, entered the gym with other officials. (Following Sutton to floor seats were fellow U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge and Marcy Kaptur.) All three are Democrats.

The president was introduced by Angela Schafer, from the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted. A married mother of two, she is a hospice nurse who graduated from Tri-C with an associate's degree in nursing in 2008. She said the administration's policies have helped her family.

"The president has our back, he believes in us," Schafer said.

President Obama took the stage at 2:02 p.m.

The campaign speech was presented as an economic vision that contrasts greatly from Republican candidate Mitt Romney's.

Obama quickly addressed what he acknowledged was a gaffe last week, when he said the private sector was "doing fine."

"There will be no shortage of gaffes that keep both campaigns busy and give the media something to write about. You may have heard that I made my own contribution to that. It wasn't my first; It won't be my last," said Obama.

The president emphasized the economic climate he inherited from his Republican predecessor -- "problems more than a decade in the making," he said. He cited a "specific theory" in Washington that favored tax cuts for the wealthy at a time the country was fighting two wars.

"How did this economic theory work out?" Obama asked.

One stray cry from the audience: "Terrible!"

"For the wealthiest Americans it worked out quite well," Obama said. "But prosperity never trickled down to the middle class."

Obama said Romney would restore Bush-era policies. "This is not spin, this is not my opinion," he said more than once. "This is their plan."

In a moment of reverse psychology meant more for Republicans and non-Obama supporters watching the campaign speech on television, the president urged those who enjoyed the economy during the Bush administration to vote for Romney and GOP congressional candidates.

"Why would we think they would work better this time?" he said.

Obama received a standing ovation when he mentioned his support of the federal government's rescue of the U.S. auto industry. Chrysler and General Motors, both of which received money from the program, have significant operations in northern Ohio.

The president focused on efforts from his first three years in office and economic proposals previously announced. Those policies, he said, would form the vision of his second term.

Obama's speech lasted 53 minutes.

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