Manchester, N.H. -- President Obama was back to his rousing 2008 form on the stump in a downtown park today, enough to give Sheryll Ross hope for his re-election. The 59-year-old elementary school teacher lives in Wolfeboro, where Republican challenger Mitt Romney vacations. She walked in the same July 4 parade that Romney did, remembering that one person saw her Obama button and commented, “You must like communists.”
She brushed that off. But in the first debate, Obama’s performance was weak enough to shake her confidence.
“I was horrified at the first debate,” Ross said. “My husband said he [Obama] looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. I just think that sometimes, we Democrats don’t like to confront bullies the way we should. But now he’s starting to stand his ground and standing up to Romney with the facts.”
Sisters Maureen and Ginny Mahan of Manchester were even more emphatic. Maureen, 62, is a retired teacher and Ginny, 53, is a school district grant writer. “I saw the Obama today that Americans should be seeing, the one who will fight,” Ginny said. “That first debate, he was way too polite.”
Mahan followed with, “He has to smack back and keep reminding people how Romney keeps insulting the 47 percent of Americans, which really are the 99 percent.”
In his speech before an estimated 6,000 people, and amidst gently falling foliage from an autumn red-orange maple, Obama reprised his far more successful second debate performance, talking about Romney’s “sketchy” economic plans, that let companies “lay off workers, strip their pensions, send their jobs overseas,” while saying that during his first term “I’ve watched the American people, with their resilience and resolve, overcoming the pain [and] struggle, and dealing with the consequences of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We worked too hard to let this country go down that path again.”
To that, the crowd shouted the refrain, “Four more years.”
To earn four more years, onlookers said, Obama must seal the deal with a strong performance in the third and final debate next week. John Szetela, 65, who ran a microchip company, and his 39-year-old nephew, Nicholas Limberopoulos, an electrical engineer for the Air Force, came up to watch from Massachusetts, where they are attending a family gathering. Both live in battleground states, Szetela in Fairfax, Virginia, and Limberopoulos in the Dayton, Ohio area.
Both were confident that the final debate on foreign policy favors Obama. “Obama let Mitt get away with murder in the first debate, then in the second, he finally countered on every point Mitt made that didn’t make sense,” Szetela said. “This third one, it will be very interesting to see what Mitt has to say. He went over to England and insulted the British over the Olympics and now says we should stay in Afghanistan.”
Limberopoulos, 39, said, “It’s hard to see Romney saying how he would be in better control than Obama overseas. If we keep seeing the same energy we see today, he can pull it out.”
Ross, though, still wonders how deep of a hole Obama dug for himself in the first debate. “It scares me how close it is,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be this hard.”