The line to enter the pavilion for President Obama’s rally, which formed hours before the gates opened today at 1pm, stretched as far as Christian’s Pizza on the Downtown Mall. The President has traveled to Virginia 12 times since January, and today marks his 40th visit to the Commonwealth since the beginning of his presidency.
As part of a two-day college tour, today’s rally will target young voters and the importance of registering to vote. According to this morning’s press release, UVA student Mathias Wondwosen will introduce the President, who will discuss his vision for growing the national economy, particularly by ensuring that a college degree is affordable to future generations.
According to Charlottesville’s Fire Chief, the crowd count is 7,500.
5:35pm—After the rally, UVA students Jordan Jackson and Lyndzey Elliott made their way through the crowd to Five Guys, expecting the excitement of the afternoon to be over. But as they finished up their burgers, a fleet of federal vehicles parked at the intersection of East Main and Fourth Street to collect President Obama, who stopped at the local campaign office to greet volunteers. The girls said they jumped up onto their tables to catch a glimpse of the President—whom, Jackson said, looked straight at them through the window and waved.
Jackson is a third year Wahoo, and Obama’s stance on funding higher education was what brought her out to the pavilion today.
“It’s not like UVA is inexpensive,” she said.
Jackson said even if Obama’s plans don’t go into effect during her time as a student, she’s encouraged that future generations will have access to affordable education.
“I have a little sister who’s a first year at [the University of North Carolina],” she said. “Thinking about those things coming into play for her is really really exciting.”
UVA second year Lyndzey Elliott said she came out today because it’s important for students to get out there and rally.
“This is in our hands, you know?” Elliott said. “We’re the people that are voting, we’re the young people. We’ve got to support ourselves and our future.”
Elliott said shewas proud to come out and support President Obama, and she said women’s rights are the hot ticket item for her.
“Especially as an African American woman, we’ve come really far. Especially being at this university, where African Americans weren’t allowed, where women weren’t allowed—just being able to come out and support moving forward was a big part of why I came out here.”
5:15pm—The excitement isn’t over yet! Hundreds are gathered on the Downtown Mall outside Five Guys, hoping to get one last glimpse of the President as he is escorted into his vehicle.
4:36pm—Eighteen-year-old high school graduate Tessa Diehl couldn’t have been more thrilled when she was offered a spot in the bleachers on stage behind President Obama. Diehl said she has supported Obama since 2008, and she can’t wait to cast her first legal vote this November.
Maddy Cohen, also 18, has been a friend and fellow Obama supporter for years.
“I think it’s really important to keep everyone informed and put the right information out there,” Cohen said.
Cohen will begin her first college semester at Princeton University in two days. Casting a vote for the first time “won’t be quite as cool” on an absentee ballot, but she was all smiles when talking about voting—even if it means not pushing the button.
Cohen’s brother Aaron is only 15, but happily joined the girls at today’s rally. Aaron was inspired by his sister’s involvement at such a young age, and is currently an intern at the Obama For America office.
“Here’s to four more years!” he said.
4:10pm—Country group Brooks and Dunn’s “Only in America” rings out through the pavilion as President Barack Obama enters the crowd to meet and greet his adoring audience. Nothing but smiles as Obama supporters, young and old, file out of the pavilion.
4:09pm—The President was barely audible over the screaming crowd during his closing remarks. “We’ve got more schools to build, we’ve got more troops to bring home; we’ve got more young people to send to college; we’ve got more doors of opportunity to everybody who’s willing to work hard and walk through them. And it all depends on you! So don’t worry about letting me down—don’t let America down. Go out there, register, stand up, and if you do, we will win Virginia, and if we win Virginia we will win this election—we will finish what we started!”
4:02pm—Passionate cheers and tears abounded and everyone jumped to their feet when Obama began discussing the wars in the Middle East and the treatment of United States veterans. He said 30,000 troops will come home from Afghanistan next week, and promised that as long as he is Commander in Chief, he will continue to take care of those who serve the country. “Nobody should have to fight for a job or a roof over their heads when they come home after they’ve been fighting for our freedom!”
3:58pm—“In this century, women should be trusted to make their own health care choices.” Said opponent Mitt Romney “wants to go backwards” with almost all of his ideas.
3:57pm—Returns to discussion of Obamacare, calls opponent’s healthcare platform “Romneydoesn’tcare.”
3:54pm—The President said he and his wife only finished paying off their own student loans eight years ago. “We shouldn’t be making it harder for young people, we should be making it easier.”
3:50pm—On Mitt Romney’s proposed tax plan: “Now many of you are too young to remember this, but we tried this for about a decade before I came into office. It didn’t work then, it won’t work now.”
3:49pm—Obama describes the Republican National Convention as “a pretty entertaining show.” Crowd boos; “Don’t boo—vote!”
3:48pm—”Virginia, your vote mattered. You made a difference…so you can’t et tired now, ’cause we’ve got more work to do.”
3:43pm—“We knew that solving our biggest challenges would take longer than one year, one term, or one President. We know we’ve still got a lot of work to do but we are determined to get it done. We are determined to finish the job.”
3:41pm—“Are we going to make sure that more young people are prepared to attend colleges like UVA?”
3:39pm—A nearby group began chanting, seemingly angrily, while the President was speaking. The rest of the crowd drowned them out with “Obama! Obama! Obama!” President Obama said he couldn’t really hear what they were saying, but he was glad to see young people getting involved. “But don’t just chant—you gotta vote!”
3:38pm—Already addressing students and young voters: “For the first time in many of your lives, you’ll get to pick the next President of the United States.”
3:36pm—Obama discusses Hurricane Isaac: ” We are going to make sure we’re doing every single thing we need to do to ensure the folks down there are taken care of and have the support and the love of the rest of this country. When things like this happen, there are no democrats or republicans.”
3:32pm—President Barack Obama takes the stage! First comment: “I still don’t know what a Wahoo is!”
3:29pm—UVA student Mathias Wondwosen has taken the stage to introduce President Barack Obama! “For the first time in a long time, we turned Virginia blue! Now it’s time to speak up again….We can’t win Virginia without wining Charlottesville.”
3:27pm—Palmyra resident Valerie, 48, saw President Obama four years ago, and said she couldn’t be happier to be back here to listen to him speak again. She spoke passionately about the progress she has seen since Obama was elected, and said she is endlessly frustrated by those who say nothing has changed over the past four years. “Do you not remember when gas was six dollars a gallon?” she said. “When companies were laying people off daily? People on the streets going hungry? Did you forget when all those car companies collapsed? What about the banks and housing market?”
3:12pm—False alarm? Front half of the crowd just stood up to cheer; everyone whipped out their cameras and excitement built, but no President yet. Country music is blaring over the speakers, but is almost drowned out by the chanting of “Obama! Obama! Obama!”
3:10pm—Kaine’s closing remarks: “If you are ready to do what you have already done four years ago, if you are ready to stand with that optimistic spirit and with that optimistic president who has stood with you…Virginia will make sure that our president has a second term!” Crowd went nuts and exploded in applause at the suggestion that Virginia may be the state to determine the outcome of election day this November.
3:03pm—Kaine on the Republican National Convention: “I’ve heard a lot of doom and gloom and negativity.” But President Barack Obama is optimistic, he said.
3:00pm—Tim Kaine: “If I am elected Virginia’s next Senator, Virginia will not go back, and the country will not go back.”
2:57pm—President Barack Obama has touched down and is en route to the nTelos Wireless Pavilion!
2:55pm—Former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine takes the stage.
2:50pm—Boos at mention of Paul Ryan, “the intellectual feeder of this Congress” and the Republican National Convention.
2:49pm—UVA student and Charlottesville Field Organizer Peter Slag on democracy: “It shouldn’t happen at lavish fundraisers or in corporate board rooms…it happens right here on the Downtown Mall!”
2:44pm—UVA student Camilla Griffifths: “As an African American and as a woman, i know that every day president Barack Obama is fighting for me and my rights.”
2:41pm—And we’re rollin’! No President yet, but retired Air Force colonel Lettie Bien just led us in the Pledge, and the Virginia Gentlemen are singing an a capella Star Spangled Banner.
2:26pm—Haywood Pace is a Social Security recipient who drove to Charlottesville from Goochland to see the President, whom he describes as a “humble, smart, and clever man.” Pace has supported Obama since day one, and said it was a “joyful wait” of almost a hour when he arrived at the pavilion this morning. Social Security and healthcare are Pace’s top concerns in this year’s campaign, and he said he has faith in the President’s ability to carry the country through “another successful four years.”
2:15pm—Jeff Varnadore, 25, of Tampa Bay, Florida, follows the Obama campaign selling buttons, t-shirts, etc. He was recently along for the Iowa bus tour, which meant three events per day. He does it for the money and to see the country. “It’s a nice trip and it’s a cause I believe in.” Varnadore said health care and jobs were his priorities.
2:06pm—Daniel Milner has been a supporter of the Obama campaign for a long time, he said, and is excited to see the President in person for the first time since 2008. Milner has a lot of faith in the President and said he hopes to see him and his followers “keep chugging along.”
2pm– An air of excitement and anticipation at the Pavilion. Most people have already waited in line for close to two hours and we still could be an hour and a half away from Obama’s arrival. Circulating now to see what’s on people’s minds.