LORAIN — At 15 and 16, Jeriece West and Unike Bankhead may not be able to vote, but that didn’t stop them from going to see what Vice President Joe Biden had to say Monday afternoon.
As part of a campaign swing through Ohio, Biden stopped at Lorain High School to discuss his and President Barack Obama’s plans to grow the economy, create middle-class jobs and restore middle-class economic security.
West and Bankhead were part of the crowd of an estimated 1,300 people who braved the heat — some were treated for heat-related illnesses during the event.
For West and Bankhead, who will soon graduate from Lorain High School with the hopes of attending college and finding a job in business administration and criminal justice, increasing jobs in the area is especially important.
The city of Lorain’s unemployment rate sits at 9 percent, well above the national and state unemployment rates, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan have said the nation’s drop in unemployment has been too slow and does not account for much of the population who have given up and stopped looking for work.
Although Bankhead and West acknowledged that finding a job now is tough, they see promise in another four years with Obama and Biden and believe that they can turn things around.
“We are the future. We’re gonna get to vote,” Bankhead said. “(Biden’s speech) made me understand.”
Bankhead added that when she can vote, she’s voting Democrat.
“They ain’t gonna take my food stamps away!” she said.
A record-high 46.7 million people were on food stamps in July, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a number Romney used to argue that Obama has a poor record on the economy.
Many Democrats have said Romney’s proposal to cap federal spending and boost defense spending would mean numerous cuts to discretionary programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which was formerly known as food stamps.
Health care is also an important issue, said Oberlin resident Kofi Darko.
Darko attended Monday’s speech at Lorain High School and called Biden “electrifying.”
“I think that their platform is more solid than Romney and Ryan’s,” he said. “I think they have the interests of the middle class at heart.”
Amy Gray, a stay-at-home mother and self-proclaimed middle-class citizen from Avon Lake, introduced Biden, praising the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “ObamaCare.”
Gray has been instrumental as a Get Out the Vote leader and supports Obama, mainly because of her daughter’s epilepsy condition. Under the Affordable Care Act pushed by Obama, Gray’s daughter cannot be denied healthcare coverage because of her existing condition, Gray said.
“That’s progress worth protecting, and that’s why I’m here today,” she said to a cheering crowd.
Romney has said, although he supports the provision for providing health-care coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, he will repeal the Affordable Care Act, a law he calls expensive and a bad policy.
Patricia Karres and Bobbie Moore, two women who listened to Biden’s speech, said their views on women align with the views of Obama and Biden. Both will be voting for the Democratic candidates this November.
Karres, the 83-year-old grandmother of Obama’s Ohio press secretary, said it was the first time she met with a sitting vice president. Karres was one of about 30 people who met with Biden after the event.
“I got to shake his hand. He knew I was a good supporter and was happy about it,” she said.
Karres watched Monday night’s debate between Romney and Obama. She said Obama has a “better outlook on foreign policy,” with more experience and believes it would show in the debate.
She added that with a “very enthusiastic” and “very big” crowd Monday afternoon, Obama should have no problem winning the re-election. Given the opportunity, Karres said she would attend another campaign rally.
“I enjoyed myself,” she said. “Everyone was so happy and upbeat.”
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