President Barack Obama received an overwhelmingly warm welcome Wednesday as he spoke to more than 2,400 people gathered for a rally at Grand Junction High School. Supporters often cheered, applauded and chanted "four more years," while fanning themselves inside the sweltering gymnasium.
Obama talked about his plans for growing the economy and helping the middle-class by cutting their taxes. Obama also said he intends to make college more affordable, and will continue to provide health care for families.
"I'm implementing Obamacare," the president said to thunderous applause, "because it was the right thing to do."
Although widely criticized by his opponents, locally, people have already been reaping the benefits of Obama's health care reform.
In Mesa County, approximately 500 young adults under the age of 26 are now covered under their parents' insurance plan, because of Obamacare. Children can no longer be denied medical coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Last year, more than a million Colorado seniors used free preventive care services provided by Obama's health care plan.
And women will not lose control over their own health care decisions, Obama said.
Education was also a major theme in his roughly 30-minute speech.
"I want to make sure that every young person can afford to go to college," Obama said.
"We're here to build an economy where hard work pays off - so that no matter who you are, or what you look like, or where you come from, here in America, you can make it if you try. That's what this campaign is about."
Obama said the previous administration's policies "culminated in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression."
"We've spent the last three-and-a-half years digging ourselves out of that hole," Obama said.
"There's a bunch of folks in Washington who think the only way is their way, and who think that the only way to go forward is to go right back to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place."
Gov. Mitt Romney's economic ideas boil down to two things, Obama said: More tax breaks for people at the very top; And getting rid of both financial and environmental regulations that protect America's air and water, and protect against Wall Street fraud.
A centerpiece of Romney's plan is to cut an additional $5 trillion in taxes for the wealthiest 1 percent of all households over the next 10 years, Obama noted.
"I've got a different plan for America," Obama said. "We need tax cuts for working Americans who are trying to raise a family."
Obama has already cut taxes for a typical Colorado family by more than $3,900 over four years. He wants to pass additional middle-class tax cuts.
"If your family makes under $250,000 - which, by the way, 98 percent of Americans do - 97 percent of small businesses do, you will not see your income taxes increase by a single dime next year."
However, the president said those making $5 million (or more) can afford to pay higher taxes.
The wealthy have an obligation to the country that has been so good to them, Obama said.
The top 2 percent can "contribute a little bit more so we pay down our deficit, and we can still invest in things like education to help our kids succeed," Obama said.
"We'll cut out spending we don't need, but I'm not going to pay for a massive new tax cut for millionaires and billionaires by gutting investments that have always made us strong as a country," Obama said.
Obama also referred to President Bill Clinton's presidency, where taxes on the very rich were higher, yet jobs were created - as well as millionaires - and the nation's deficit turned into a surplus.
In the next three months "the other side will be spending more money than you've ever seen," Obama said. "You've got these guys signing $1 million checks."
In television ads, Romney constantly slams Obama as being at fault for not fixing the economy he inherited. The president said Romney doesn't have a plan for fixing it.
He does not have a plan to create jobs, grow the economy or revive the middle class, Obama said.
"But I do," he added.
Twenty-four-year-old Calvin Davenport of Grand Junction was one of approximately 50 people who were invited to sit on the stage behind Obama as he addressed the audience. It was a surprise for Davenport, who used his mom's ticket because she was unable to leave work.
"I like how he cares about the environment and education issues. Those are big ones for me," Davenport said.
Barbara Gale, a Grand Junction Democrat for the past 49 years, said after the rally: "I voted for him before, and I'll vote for him again."
Obama shook hands with numerous individuals before and after his speech as he entered, and then departed from the gymnasium.
Kris Wilson of Glenwood Springs was one of those who got to meet the president up close. Wilson told Obama how her husband Roger Wilson, a state representative, had met the president earlier that day at Grand Junction Regional Airport.
"He flashed me the biggest smile on the planet," Wilson said of Obama. "What an honor and a privilege to shake his hand."
Outside, protester Eric Rechel asked why Obama has not ended the war in Afghanistan. Rechel, a Green Party member, was quick to distance himself, however, from other nearby protesters - members of the Tea Party who "have all this hateful venom coming out of their mouths," Rechel said.
Members of the Western Slope Conservative Alliance also held their own rally at nearby Sherwood Park during Obama's speech.