Obama Uses Political Capital to Rally Americans in Struggling States

With a long-sought political win under his belt, President Obama is using the momentum to canvas the country campaign-style and assure the people who voted for him in November that things are going to be okay, despite the fact that many of them are still struggling to get by.

The President will continue to tout his newly-passed health care reform plan on the road next week, as he heads to Maine on Thursday. It will be his first trip to Maine since taking office. He won the state by a landslide in 2008.

At a campaign rally in Bangor a day before he defeated Hillary Clinton in Maine's caucus two years ago, then-candidate Obama told the crowd that health care reform was personal for him, since his mother died of ovarian cancer and struggled to pay her bills. He promised supporters that he would put forward a plan that would cover all Americans and lower premiums. "I won't wait 20 years to do it," Mr. Obama said at the time. "I will do this by the end of my first term."

Maine has one of the highest average family premium rates in the nation. The President has pointed to states like Maine, Kansas, and California as examples of areas where abuse by insurance companies has run rampant. "In Maine, Anthem is asking to raise rates for some folks by about 23 percent," Mr. Obama said in February. "The bottom line is that the status quo is good for the insurance industry and bad for America."

In December the administration announced a $2.4 million grant for Maine's Bucksport Regional Health Center as part of a new initiative to fund community health centers in low-income neighborhoods. The White House said the funding would create new jobs while providing quality health care for more than half a million additional patients.

The President had hoped to gain support from Maine's two moderate republicans, Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, throughout the year-long debate on health care but ultimately both voted with their party against the legislation.

Mr. Obama will finish the week in North Carolina, where he is expected to discuss the economy. Since taking office, the President has made two trips to the Tar Heel State, which he won by a narrow margin in 2008.

At a Raleigh townhall meeting in July, Mr. Obama stopped short of declaring all out victory when it came to the economy. "We have stopped the freefall. The market is up and the financial system is no longer on the verge of collapse," he told the audience. "We may be seeing the beginning of the end of the recession. But that's little comfort if you're one of the folks who have lost their job and haven't found another."

North Carolina has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. At 11.2% it ranks ninth in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Obama administration has directed over $11 million of Recovery Act funds to North Carolina through the Federal Transit Administration for transportation and infrastructure projects. The 10,000th Recovery Act project will break ground in North Carolina and create 45 new jobs, according to a March 18 White House release.

As the President uses the political capital he gained with the passage of his signature health care legislation, it is only natural that the message will revert back to the economy and jobs. Mr. Obama has frequently said that an overhaul of the health care system was essential to revitalizing a struggling economy. He reiterated that argument on Tuesday after signing the House version of the bill. "It is paid for. It is fiscally responsible. And it will help lift a decades-long drag on our economy," he said. At the same time, the President acknowledges that the road to economic recovery is a long one. "The work of revitalizing our economy goes on. The work of promoting private sector job creation goes on," he said in remarks Sunday evening. The work of putting American families' dreams back within reach goes on. And we march on, with renewed confidence, energized by this victory on their behalf."

Critics say it's too late.

In an impassioned pre-vote speech on the House floor Sunday evening House Minority Leader John Boehner said that passing the health care reform bill would be the "last straw" for the American people. Boehner, who represents Ohio's 8th district, said during tough economic times, members of Congress have failed to listen to their constituents. "In this economy, with this unemployment, with our desperate need for jobs and economic growth, is this really the time to raise taxes, create bureaucracies, and burden every job creator in our land?"

He warned his colleagues that they would pay a price if they voted for the bill. "If we defy the will of our fellow citizens and pass this bill, we will be held to account by those who have placed their trust in us," the minority leader said. "We will have shattered those bonds of trust."