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Obama Seeks to Boost Democrats Ahead of November Elections

  • Cindy Saine

U.S. public opinion polls indicate that Republicans have a clear advantage and Democrats are likely to suffer big losses in congressional elections in November. But President Barack Obama is fighting back against perceived Republican momentum with measures to jump-start the economy unveiled in a news conference Friday and a number of campaign-style speeches in key states.

President Barack Obama came out on offense in the red-hot phase of congressional election campaigning, proposing new tax cuts for businesses and spending on infrastructure projects to boost the economy and create jobs. Speaking near Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Obama said Americans are frustrated and anxious due to continued high unemployment, and accused opposition Republicans of using that fear for political gain.

"A lot has changed since I came here in those final days of the last election, but what has not changed is the choice facing this country," said President Obama. "It is still fear versus hope, the past versus the future. It is still a choice between sliding backward and moving forward. That is what this election is about, that is the choice that you will face in November."

The president lashed out at House Republican Minority leader John Boehner several times. Boehner had blasted Mr. Obama's economic policies in a speech in Cleveland, Ohio about two weeks ago.

"President Obama should ask for, and accept, the resignations of the remaining members of his economic team, starting with Secretary Geithner and Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council," said John Boehner.

Boehner has called on the president to extend former President Bush's tax cuts for all Americans, but Mr. Obama wants to let tax cuts expire for high income earners and to only maintain tax cuts for lower and middle-income taxpayers. Boehner is hoping to become the next Speaker of the House if Republicans win back majority control of the House in November.

David Mark is Senior Editor of the online and print news agency Politico. He says President Obama's economic initiatives are not likely to have a big impact on the November elections.

"The problem for the president is that his proposals would not go into effect right away, so even if they are popular, say some of the business depreciation tax cuts, some of the other measures that would cut down on taxes, they would not take effect for many months, if they were passed at all," said David Mark. "So I think that is a real problem for the president. He is stuck with these high unemployment rates, 9.5 percent, 9.6 percent, GDP stagnant, economic figures overall are very tough right now. And as long as that is the case, it is going to be the president's problem."

William Galston of the Brookings Institution agrees that these new economic moves have probably come too late to have a big political impact by November.

"There is an enormous amount of evidence suggesting that impressions are pretty well formed and hardened by Labor Day [a in early September]," said William Galston. "People have made up their minds about the economy, they have made up their minds about their own circumstances, and typically they have made up their minds about the president. Which is not to say that between this election and 2012 that people cannot change their minds, they certainly did in the case of Bill Clinton, whose party was routed in November, 1994, but went on to win an easy re-election campaign in 1996.

For now though, President Obama is focused on trying to help Democratic lawmakers hold onto their majorities in Congress in the November 2 elections, because that balance of power will have a huge impact on his ability to govern over the next two years.

David Mark of Politico says it is too early to tell if there is going to be what analysts refer to as a "wave" of voters tossing out Democrats and putting Republicans into House seats across the country, but if there is, that wave might roll over the Senate as well.

"It is a moving target right now, but I would say this, if one House changes I think they both do," he said. "Usually the close races tend to break all the same way, or almost all the same way towards the end. So if there is a big Republican wave, and we don't know that that is going to be the case, we know Republicans will do well, but if they have a tsunami effect they will probably take both the House and the Senate. But it is still too early to tell on that."

Mark said Democratic strategists say they have a plan, referred to as "firewall", to use their limited financial resources to hold on to a bare minimum of seats to keep their majorities in Congress. Nervous lawmakers are returning to Washington, DC after their summer recess with the November elections on their minds.