By Sean Barron
In 2008, Anthony Nwankwo was among the millions of young people thrilled about the prospects of Democratic candidate Barack Obama becoming president.
That year also marked the first time the Youngstown man cast his vote.
It would be a mistake, however, to assume that four years later, his enthusiasm — much of which is now the result of a possible second four-year term for Obama — has dimmed.
“In 2008, I was energized, and I was 18. I’m just as energized now,” Nwankwo said as he and an estimated 100 other Obama supporters and campaign volunteers gathered Saturday for an hourlong rally at Obama’s downtown Youngstown campaign office at 25 W. Federal St.
The event’s main speaker was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman.
Afterward, those attending hit neighborhoods in and around Youngstown to campaign for Obama’s re-election.
Since 2008, Nwankwo, a Youngstown State University information-technology major and president of the university’s College Democrats, has gone door to door, participated in voter-registration efforts and assembled meetings on behalf of Obama, he noted. In the 51 days remaining until the Nov. 6 general election, Nwankwo plans to encourage people to vote and stresses what he feels is at stake for the middle class, he continued.
Ben Barnes of Youngs-town, an industrial salesman with Warren-based Torque Drives Inc., said he planned to canvass neighborhoods on Youngstown’s North Side near the former Rayen School to encourage people to vote for the Democratic incumbent.
“Another four years [under Obama] and the middle class and the lower class will be a lot better off,” he predicted.
Barnes said he hopes a “cooperative Congress” will make it easier for the president to finish a lot of what he started in his first term, including voting on legislation to help reduce the nation’s unemployment rate.
Barnes explained that he feels hopeful partly because an increasing number of companies have brought jobs back to the U.S., in part because China has increased the cost of exporting industrial and other products.
“He’s been a good president, despite the mountain of obstacles he’s had to face,” Barnes said of Obama.
It didn’t take long for Wasserman Schultz to get the crowd fired up, saying that Obama’s efforts to bail out the automobile industry have saved one in eight local jobs tied to that industry.
“While 2008 was historic, 2012 is personal,” Wasserman Schultz, of Westin, Fla., said to applause. She was referring to what she predicts will be continued improvements to many older people’s lives and the strengthening of the middle class, if Obama is re-elected.
Wasserman Schultz, a four-term U.S. House of Representatives’ member whose district includes Fort Lauderdale, Miami Beach and Hollywood, Fla., said those parts of the state have thousands of senior citizens, many of whom struggle to pay for needed medications partly because they have pre- existing conditions.
Wasserman Schultz, who is a breast-cancer survivor, said she also had a pre- existing condition and was “one job loss away from being uninsured and uninsurable.”
A key feature of Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act makes it illegal for insurers to deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Though acknowledging that much remains to be done, Wasserman Schultz outlined what she said are major accomplishments under Obama, including 30-consecutive months of job growth, the rescue of the automobile industry and economic progress. She also took time to praise local volunteers’ efforts.
“It’s obvious that the [Mahoning] Valley is ready to go and is buoyed by the progress made” in the last four years, Schultz added.
Making additional remarks during the rally were U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, and Colleen Lowry, regional field director with Organizing for America-Ohio.