Politics

Obama Campaigns Hard to Enliven Democrats

Sept. 28: President Obama speaks at a rally on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison.

Sept. 28: President Obama speaks at a rally on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison.  (AP)

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama, using a flurry of interviews and lightning campaign stops, is trying to fire up Democratic voters to avoid what increasingly looks to be a Republican takeover in the House of Representatives and, perhaps, the Senate in November elections.

He was in New Mexico and Wisconsin on Tuesday trying to invigorate the Democratic base, young voters and independents who backed him when he swept into the White House in the 2008 presidential election.

On Wednesday, Obama was returning to the birthplace of his political triumph -- Iowa -- where his victory in the January 2008 caucuses put him on the path to the Democratic presidential nomination. The president will finish his four-state tour Wednesday afternoon with a meeting with voters in Richmond, Virginia.

In Des Moines, Iowa, Obama planned the latest in a series of "backyard discussions" with small groups of voters at a private home, trying to convince Americans that despite their discontent with the Democratic majority, a Republican takeover of Congress in the Nov. 2 election would be worse.

With the U.S. economy recovering at a snail's pace and unemployment still near 10 percent, however, Republicans are set to make big gains with the approach of the November vote. All 435 seats in the House and 37 of 100 Senate seats are at stake in what is known as a midterm election, so-called because it falls half way through the four-year presidential term.

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While polls show both Republicans and Democrats with equal but weak voter approval, the core of Republican faithful are far more enthusiastic and likely to cast ballots than dispirited Democrats or the youth and independent voters who went to the polls because Obama was at the top of the ticket.

Obama took office in January 2009 with a huge Democratic majority in the House and an effective 10 seat edge in the Senate, counting two political independents who vote with the Democrats.

In an interview to be published Friday in Rolling Stone, a magazine aimed at a younger audience, Obama said it would "inexcusable" and "irresponsible" for unenthusiastic Democrats sit out the November elections.

"People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up," Obama told the magazine. The president sought to remind Democrats that changing the government and the way it does business is hard and "if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."

Tuesday night's rally at the University of Wisconsin in Madison came the closest so far to recapturing the enthusiasm of Obama's 2008 drive to the White House. He implored young voters who backed him in 2008 to vote for Democrats this fall.

"Every single one of you is a shareholder in that mission of rebuilding our country and reclaiming our future," he told thousands of students packing the campus's chilly Library Mall.

"We can't let this country fall backwards because the rest of us didn't care enough to fight," he said. "The stakes are too high for our country and for your future."

The president has been expressing deep frustration that he and Democrats are getting little credit for moving through reforms of health care, financial regulation and a financial stimulus package that prevented, in the minds of most economist, the economy from plunging into an even deeper trough.

Republican leaders, Obama said in Albuquerque, New Mexico, "fought us tooth and nail ... That's the choice that we've got in this election."

Obama hammered on the choice of themes ranging from veterans spending and education to taxes and small businesses, trying mightily to get voters to see the election as a contest between competing visions, not a referendum on the party in power at a time of economic woes.

Obama says he wants Democratic loyalists to be less apologetic and more forceful in asserting that he and the Democratic-controlled Congress are trying to move the country forward while Republicans would return to the policies of former President George W. Bush.