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February 1, 2015

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Debuting new stump speech in Reno, Obama appeals to students

RENO — Pivoting to a new stump speech at a community college here, President Barack Obama argued Tuesday he would devote a second term to policies that would make an affordable education accessible “to everybody, not just the wealthy,” saying that’s the foundation of America’s economic might.

Before a boisterous crowd of more than 2,000, Obama also accused his Republican rival Mitt Romney of proposing cuts to financial aid programs as a way to fund a tax plan that would benefit the country’s richest.

“Making sure those doors are open to everybody, that is why I ran for president,” Obama said. “That is what my presidency is about. That is why I’m running for a second term.”

Obama summarized Romney’s approach to education policy, borrowing from lines Romney uttered earlier in the campaign, this way:

“So this is his plan. That’s his answer to a young person hoping to go to college — shop around and borrow money from your parents if you have to.”

Obama’s new stump speech, which he unveiled earlier Tuesday in Ohio, jumped from the economy and Medicare to education. But his message kept to the same contours of the debate that have dominated the presidential campaign so far: The wealthy vs. the middle class and the overall role of government.

“Government can’t help folks who won’t help themselves,” Obama said. “Parents have to be parents. Young people have to stay disciplined and focused. But if you’re willing to work hard, a college education in the 21st century should be available to everybody, not just the wealthy few.”

Romney’s spokesman fired back that Obama hasn’t exactly achieved that promise during his first term.

“President Obama’s policies have only made the problems of college affordability and student debt worse,” said Mason Harrison, Romney’s Nevada spokesman. “Under President Obama, the costs of college have skyrocketed — making it more difficult for students to attend college — and his economic policies have made it harder for graduates to get jobs.

“Mitt Romney will encourage innovation and competition to make college more affordable, and his economic policies will give recent graduates the job opportunities they deserve.”

Obama said the budget plan put forward by Romney’s running mate Rep. Paul Ryan would cut funding for education by 20 percent, resulting in 1 million fewer students receiving federal grants and cutting financial aid to 10 million students.

According to the Associated Press, those estimates assume the cuts in Ryan's budget are applied evenly across all programs starting in 2014.

While Ryan’s budget would keep the top Pell grant award at $5,500, fewer students would be eligible for the award in future years.

Earlier in the day, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Reno, warned voters not to listen to Obama’s speeches, dubbing his re-election effort the “Novocain campaign.”

“You can listen to enough of what that person says and it can numb you enough that you’ll probably vote for that person again,” Amodei said of Obama. “Forget the Novocain campaign. Look for somebody who will tell you the truth on Medicare.”

But the crowd at Truckee Meadows Community College appeared anything but numb once Obama took the stage. Several times they interrupted the speech with chants of “four more years,” booed at the drop of Romney’s name and cheered Obama’s applause lines.

Clare Zecena, a special education teacher in Reno who earned her bachelor’s degree in 2009, said she left the speech “hopeful.”

“He really understands what regular people have gone through,” she said of Obama. “Mitt Romney, it’s easy for him to say borrow from your parents. But my mom was a single mom of four. I got my bachelor’s degree through Pell grants. I wouldn’t have a degree without them.”

Obama’s Reno speech was the first in a two-day swing through Nevada. He is set to speak at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas on Wednesday morning. It’s his 13th visit to Nevada since he became president and his sixth this year.

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  1. He's right. A college education or trade school education is the first step to avoid a lifetime of poverty. It's not the end all because you have to stay focused and work hard but a college education or equivalent is a must. These kids in this town dropping out of high school at an alarming rate are sealing their fate. They will face a lifetime of low end, low paid jobs.

    STAY IN SCHOOL, go to college or learn a trade (mechanic, X-ray tech...some type of skilled in demand trade). There has got to be some dream in these kids. They have got to want to do something beyond working fast food or cleaning toilets. Invest those few short years in your youth. It will pay off for a lifetime and will give you an advantage over others in times like this. You will not be the next Chumlee or Corey. Those two hit the lottery.

    Las Vegans have dropped the ball. Get an education!!!!

  2. Romney's Nevada spokesperson is suffering from short term memory loss! He forgets that it was President Bush's policies that sent this nation spiraling into an economic crisis that crippled business, destroyed jobs, pulled the ladder out from under states' ability to provide adequate funding for previously affordable public colleges, and left graduates unable to find jobs. President Obama has offered solutions, but he's been blocked at every turn by an obstructionist Congress that is so utterly partisan, nothing gets done! How many jobs bills have come out of the House of Representatives? None that I can think of. Instead, they've been churning out piles of bills that support their backwater social agenda in hopes of satisfying evangelicals they hope will provide the support they need on Election Day, 2012. Meanwhile, the economic fabric of our nation continues to limp along in slow recovery mode. Blame the Tea Party obstructionists for causing this, not President Obama. Romney's political hack in Nevada should be ashamed of himself for his distortion of the truth!

  3. I hope the students are smart enough to realize a load of BS when they hear it. Obama's policies have guaranteed higher tuition and slimmer job opportunities than any president since Carter. The free market will make their degrees more valuable and they'll actually have a future rather than govt. dependence. Romney is the choice for the intelligent young person, student or not.

  4. The *LAST* thing that either Obama or the Republicans want is an educated electorate!

    They want blind, ignorant, dedicated morons that will vote a straight party ticket every time because they are incapable of intelligent thought. We see examples of this kind of person everyday in the posts on this website.

    Those in power want people who are just smart enough to work, but not smart enough to vote. "Idiocracy" in already here.

  5. teamster,

    There are more choices this November than just Obama or Romney, you should broaden your horizons. The only wasted vote is the one that isn't cast.