Focused on turning out base voters, President Barack Obama is being cheered at raucous rallies and spreading this message: Don’t turn your back on the change happening in Washington.
He’s expecting a double dose of cheer on Friday when he headlines a pair of rallies to boost two high-profile Democrats in tossup races: California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
“We are excited about these last 10 days” before the Nov. 2 election, Obama said Thursday night.
The president is on a four-day campaign swing and visiting states where Democratic Party strategists think he’s the best person to help encourage core supporters — women, minorities, young people — to vote next month.
At every stop, Obama is reminding audiences of the passion they felt in 2008 when they helped elect him and is urging them to keep the feeling alive amid the weight of the worst economic downturn in a generation.
But the task of turning out voters is harder this time around. Turnout typically is lower in non-presidential election years, and the party in control of the White House traditionally loses seats in Congress in the off years.
The White House is also mindful of what’s at stake should the GOP increase its ranks in Congress, or perhaps pick up the 40 seats the party needs to win back control of the House. More Republicans could translate into scant progress on the to-do list for the second half of Obama’s presidency.
A crowd of 30,000 people was expected at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on Friday, the third day of Obama’s swing. He is scheduled to speak at a fundraiser for Boxer before addressing a Democratic rally at Alumni Park on campus alongside Boxer and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown.
Boxer is in a closely watched fight against Republican Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive. And in a Democratic state where he remains popular, Obama has been generous with his support. He’s on his third trip in recent months to help Boxer raise money, and he recently taped a radio ad for her.
From Los Angeles, Obama was flying to Las Vegas to boost Reid in his race against tea party-backed Sharron Angle. Reid is a top Republican target competing in the most closely watched Senate matchup this year.
Reid helped push Obama’s economic recovery, health care and financial regulation bills through the Senate but he’s paying the price as a result. He is unpopular in his home state, which is suffering economically and is plagued by the nation’s highest rates of unemployment (14.4 percent) and home foreclosures.
Reid says Angle’s conservative positions on Social Security, Medicare and other issues make her too “extreme” for Nevada and that they will help voters forget their economic problems long enough to send him back to the Senate.
The White House wasn’t hiding its preference in the race.
Asked about Angle’s recent comment to Hispanic high school students that they look more like Asians, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “They are among some of the stranger comments that we’ve heard in an otherwise strange election.”
Obama spent part of Thursday in Seattle, stumping with Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and courting women voters. Murray also is in a tight re-election fight.
Women traditionally lean toward Democrats but the latest Associated Press-GfK poll shows that, at a time of great economic angst, those who are likely to vote are now split about evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
Obama also addressed a 10,000-person rally for Murray at the University of Washington. He urged supporters not to let that angst lead them to give up too soon on the change he says is happening in Washington.
His voice hoarse from speechmaking, Obama said he knows it’s hard for some people to be optimistic about the future when relatives can’t find jobs after months of trying or when another foreclosure sign is hung down the street or when they see candidates putting sniping at each other in negative campaign ads.
“But I want, I want everybody to understand this,” he said. “I want everybody to understand, you can’t let it get to you. Don’t ever let anybody tell you that this fight is not worth it. Don’t let them tell you that you’re not making a difference.”
He flew to San Francisco afterward to attend fundraisers at two private homes. The events raised about $1.8 million for the Democratic Party, according to party officials.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press