President Obama rallied thousands of students and supporters at USC on Friday with traces of the soaring rhetoric of his presidential campaign, but the inspirational message was perhaps trumped by alarm over what would happen should Republicans regain control of Congress.
“I told you this was going to be hard,” he said in the campus’ Alumni Park, on a stage in front of the Romanesque university library. “I told you power concedes nothing without a fight.”
Joining Obama were Attorney General Jerry Brown, running for governor against Meg Whitman; Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), seeking reelection against challenger Carly Fiorina; and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, running for attorney general against Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley; as well as a smattering of Obama’s Hollywood supporters, including Jamie Foxx, Kal Penn and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
“This is going to be a difficult election because we have been through a difficult time as a nation,” Obama said.
Much of Obama’s speech was aimed at the Republicans as obstructionists, and, like he has elsewhere, he used the analogy of a driver steering the economy into a ditch and then asks to get the keys back.
“I bring this up not because I want to regurgitate the past,” Obama said. “I bring this up because I don’t want to relive the past.”
He defended the stimulus package, health care reform and Wall Street reform, and implied that changes could be in store for Social Security should the GOP regain power. And he suggested that the GOP would try to cut education spending by 20%, framing that as a matter of American competitiveness.
“Do you think China wants to cut education by 20%?” he asked.
He also characterized the Republicans as ever more partisan and drifting even further to the right. Abraham Lincoln, he said at one point, “could not get the nomination in today’s Republican party.”
Like he has many times, he criticized the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, saying that it has led to “phony front groups” that were a “threat to democracy” because of huge sums being spent on the campaign without donors being disclosed.
Jamie Foxx served as an emcee and warm-up act of sorts, calling on the crowd to renew the sense of energy that he saw when he attended Obama’s inauguration, and getting them to chant, “We’re not exhausted.” But he also chided a woman for telling Obama at a town hall several weeks ago that she was “exhausted” having to defend him. Foxx noted the short period of time Obama has been in office.
Brown and Boxer each delivered brief remarks, and although the rally was intended primarily to boost their prospects in top-of-the-ticket races, it was clear that many in the crowd had showed up to catch a glimpse of the president.
Boxer, in a tight race against against Fiorina, also cast the GOP as obstructionists, mentioning the names Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and Dick Armey as foes. “But we have our own army,” she said.
Brown reached back even further, noting that it was a Republican who used the line “negative nabobs of negativity,” although he didn’t name the man who said it, Vice President Spiro Agnew.
“That is the other side,” Brown said. “We are the positive force for change for everbody.”
Earlier Obama appeared at an on-campus fund-raiser for Boxer and the Democratic National Committee, with Stevie Wonder entertaining the crowd, according to a pool report. Among those present were Magic Johnson, Robert Daly and Carol Bayer Sager and Andy Spahn and Jennifer Perry.
There were none of the traffic hassles that beset Los Angeles in Obama’s last visit in August. He flew into LAX and flew Marine One to a landing point at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Update: The crowd estimate was 37,500, according to USC. (via LAObserved.)