Obama to young voters: ‘Change is always hard’
The president begins a campaign swing in an effort to invigorate Democrats.
President Obama on Monday began a high-stakes effort to reenergize Democrats before the midterm election, beginning with a trip that White House strategists hope will summon images from his 2008 victory.
Obama will speak Tuesday at a rally in Madison, Wis., where he drew a capacity crowd of 17,000 two years ago. Democrats have been working hard to turn out supporters in the liberal city, especially the first-time and college-age voters who were central to the 2008 effort. Democratic analysts fear young adults are going to sit out the election.
To help spur them, Obama spoke to college journalists on a conference call Monday, saying he wanted to remind young voters that “change is always hard.”
“You can’t sit it out,” he added. “You can’t suddenly just check in once every 10 years or so, on an exciting presidential election, and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”
Republicans say Obama’s visit will only further galvanize their supporters. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said the enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans in the Badger State is the widest in the country.
“So part of their strategy here is to try to wake up the living dead in Madison, but it’s not going to happen because people are alive and they’re thinking straight, and they know that Obama’s policies are bad for this country,” he said in an interview.
Wisconsin has emerged as a leading bellwether for Democrats, with battles for governor and Senate. Tom Barrett, the Democratic nominee for governor, will join Obama in Madison.
But Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) will be absent, as he was when Obama came to the state on Labor Day. Feingold is staying in Washington, where the Senate on Tuesday faces another in a series of showdown votes, this one on a Democratic bill to offer payroll tax breaks.
Polls show Feingold as among the most endangered of Senate Democrats, trailing businessman Ron Johnson by at least 6 percentage points.
Obama will hold three more “Moving America Forward” rallies — in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada — in coming weeks. He also plans a telecast town hall meeting Oct. 12.
During this week’s trip, Obama will make a more personal appeal by meeting with families in Albuquerque, Des Moines and Richmond, Va.
The itinerary speaks to the political challenges Democrats face this fall. In New Mexico, two Democratic lawmakers face tough reelection challenges, and the party is battling to hold the governorship.
In Iowa, Gov. Chet Culver trails a Republican opponent by double digits in his bid for a second term. Two of the GOP’s leading congressional targets are in Virginia, though Obama’s event there is in neither district.
Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and several Cabinet secretaries will hold events Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Delaware, California, Maryland and North Carolina.
Briefing reporters Monday, a senior White House aide said the trip was a continuation of the small meetings Obama has been having with families hit by the recession. But there will be a clear partisan message as well.
“Let’s be clear: If you like deficits, you will love the Republican plan,” said Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, pointing to GOP proposals to extend George W. Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. “The president will highlight these things.”
THAT WAS THEN: In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama greeted supporters in Madison, Wis. He will return to the city to try to recapture the enthusiasm.