HAMPTON, Virginia — As a freelance court reporter with the Virginia court system, Diedre Nichols, 55, must pay the entire cost of her health insurance coverage. In the past few years, it has increased from $200 to $600 per month, which has reinforced her support for the Affordable Care Act.
"I'm a real advocate for Obamacare," Nichols said after hearing President Obama speak at Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia, Friday afternoon. "Everybody needs health care insurance, and I know that I'm paying for people who go to the emergency room for surgery. The Affordable Care Act is the greatest thing to happen because it's going to lower insurance rates and provide better health care, and I think that's a great thing."
Nichols was one of about 1,300 supporters who turned out to hear the president deliver the second of three planned speeches in the state. He sounded many of the same themes — a basic bargain to reward hard work, supporting the middle class and how his approach to restoring the nation's economic health differs from that of Republican rival Mitt Romney.
"Our goal is an economy where hard work pays off, an economy where everybody, whether you're starting a business or you're punching a clock, everybody can have confidence that they can make it," the president said. "That's what the campaign in 2008 was about; that's what this campaign is about; that is the reason I am running for a second term as president of the United States of America."
Obama took aim at Romney and Bain Capital, the private equity firm he founded, and the investments they made as "pioneers of outsourcing."
"He wants to keep giving tax breaks to companies that shift jobs overseas. I want to end those tax breaks. I want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing here in Virginia, investing in American workers, investing in advanced American manufacturing so we can sell our goods around the world stamped with three proud words, Made in America," Obama said.
Earlier in the day, the president mocked Congress for voting against the Affordable Care Act 33 times, but he pointed out the lawmakers won't vote to give lower- and middle-income workers a tax break.
"I'll work with anybody who wants to continue to improve our health care system, but the Supreme Court has spoken. This health care law is here to stay. We're not going backwards," he said. "If you've got health insurance, nothing's changing for you. You're not being charged the tax. The only thing's that happened to you is your insurance is more secure, because insurance companies can't drop you because of some fine print, or not cover your illnesses because you've hit a lifetime limit. Insurance companies now have to cover young people until they're 26 on their parents' plan, which is helping young people all across the country."
While his speech focused primarily on economic issues and how his and Romney's approaches differ, the president also tried to highlight another difference and that is how he can more easily relate to average Americans' struggles and hard-won triumphs.
"Through all the campaigns, what's always given me hope is the American people. There's a core decency, there's an honesty, there's a common sense that cuts through all the noise and all the distractions and all the nonsense," Obama said. "What gives me hope is remembering the story of your families, because they're just like the story of my family, all the struggles of parents and grandparents and great-grandparents who went through struggles we can't even imagine but somehow came out on the other end, who understood that even in the darkest of nights, there's a brighter day dawning."
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(Photo: REUTERS/Jason Reed)