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Obama hits the campaign trail

By STEPHEN COLLINSON
April 27, 2010

(AFP)

President Barack Obama heads into the American heartland Tuesday to launch the Democratic mid-term election campaign in states paying a heavy price for the worst economic crisis in decades.

Obama will spend two days hopscotching across Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, after urging his young, multi-racial supporters to thwart what an aide termed a Republican-induced “nightmare” at mid-term elections in November.

Democrats fear heavy losses in the polls, which could put their grip on Congress at risk, as opinion surveys show Obama still has lagging approval ratings nationwide, despite several recent big victories.

In a YouTube video, Obama made the case that his presidency had delivered on historic health care reform and staved off an economic meltdown, but warned that his political foes hoped to slow his “incredible journey” of change.

He pledged to heed advice from grass-roots Democrats and told party leaders to “make sure the same people who were inspired to vote for the first time in 2008 go back to the polls in 2010.”

“It will be up to each of you to make sure that the young people, African Americans, Latinos, and women, who powered our victory in 2008, stand together once again,” he said in the video mailed to Democratic activists.

“If you help us make sure that first-time voters in 2008 make their voices heard again in November, then together we will deliver on the promise of change, and hope, and prosperity for generations to come.”

Obama will spend Tuesday and Wednesday touting his administration’s efforts to alleviate economic blight and unemployment and his push to create new green energy jobs, through his 787-billion-dollar economic rescue plan.

He will begin his political program with a tour of a Siemens wind turbine plant in Fort Madison, Iowa, where he will give a working-class message on how to grow the US economy.

Later, still in the state that was the cradle of his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama will hold a town hall meeting at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, where he will likely pour more pressure on Republicans in Congress to support finance reform.

The president said he was “deeply disappointed” Monday that Republicans in the Senate blocked a bid to bring the finance bill up for debate. But the move allowed Democrats to paint their foes as being in the pocket of Wall Street bankers.

David Plouffe, who masterminded Obama’s 2008 election win, based on historic turnout from young, African American, independent and Hispanic voters, said in an email to supporters Monday he had prepared a “comprehensive electoral plan.”

While admitting “historical trends aren’t in our favor,” Plouffe said he believes “we can avoid the nightmare electoral scenario that Republicans in Washington have already convinced themselves will happen.”

Democrats must mount their campaign in a highly polarized political environment, with national unemployment at 9.7 percent, and with many voters yet to feel the benefits of the nascent economic recovery.

Republicans meanwhile are lambasting Obama for “job killing” policies, and claim his economic and health care policies add up to a big government takeover incompatible with the political sensibilities of average Americans.

Obama’s tactics reflect the fears of some Democratic strategists that the massive grass-roots coalition which powered his 2008 presidential race will not show up for mid-term polls without the president on the ballot.

First-term presidents often take a pummeling in the first congressional elections of their administration, but Democrats hope a list of accomplishments and a recovering economy will curtail the losses.

Most opinion polls show Obama’s approval rating at or just below 50 percent. Historically, presidents who enjoy the support of more than half of US voters have been able to mitigate losses in mid-term elections.

A generic average of party support nationwide ahead of November compiled by the RealClearPolitics website shows Republicans ahead of Democrats by 45 to 42 percent.

Democrats have a list of tough-to-defend seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and a loss of control of Capitol Hill could severely impede Obama’s hopes of enacting top agenda items before his reelection push in 2012.

A third of the 100 Senate seats and all of the 435 House seats are up for grabs in November.

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