News / USA

Obama Amplifies Messages Four Months Before Mid-Term Elections

Less than four months before the U.S. mid-term congressional elections, President Obama is pushing back hard against opposition Republicans and their criticisms of his economic policies.  Mr. Obama is making clear that in coming months he intends to bring the fight to Republicans he says have positioned themselves as obstructionists.

President Obama arrived back at the White House on Friday after completing the latest in a series of trips to states where candidates from his party, including the Senate majority leader Harry Reid, face stiff challenges from Republicans.

In Nevada, and earlier in Missouri, the president focused on steps by his administration to repair economic damage and deal with still sharply high unemployment, repeatedly emphasizing that the financial crisis and recession began when a Republican was in the White House.

The president's tone has been sharper, marked by the kind of passion, rhetoric and personal touch he employed effectively on the campaign trail before the 2008 presidential election in which he defeated Republican John McCain.

So it was in Missouri where his remarks in support of Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Robin Carnahan underscored the picture he is trying to paint for voters before the November mid-term elections.

Mr. Obama describes Republicans as the party of 'no' who have refused to work with him on dealing with the nation's major problems.

"They figure if they just keep on saying 'no' it will work for them, they will get more votes in November because if Obama loses, they win," said President Obama. "[Republicans say] if we can stop him then we will look better.  But that's not what is going to lead our country out of this mess that we are in.  That just takes us backwards.  We need to move forward."

As they continue to condemn Obama economic policies, Republicans have not been helped by remarks some of their key members in Congress have made in recent weeks.

In an interview with editors at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner made this remark about the financial system reform bill Congress is expected to approve soon.

"This is [like] killing an ant with a nuclear weapon," said John Boehner.

In Missouri, and on a previous trip to Wisconsin, the president has referred to the remark by Boehner as an example of Republicans being out of touch with the struggles  Americans are going through.

"He says well, we don't need all of this," said Mr. Obama. "This is like using a nuclear weapon to kill an ant.  The worst crisis since the Great Depression he calls an ant.  You have got to make a movie [out of that].  The ant that ate the economy."  

Mr. Boehner, and fellow Republican Joe Barton, who in June suggested that the White House had subjected the oil company BP to a "shakedown" in demanding it establish a $20 billion compensation fund, later issued clarifications.

Republican and Democratic media operations made good use of the remarks, which both sides combined with statements from the president.

Damage from the Republican remarks has given President Obama additional ammunition as he intensifies personal campaigning across the country before November.

In appearances for Senate Majority Leader Reid, who has been fighting an uphill battle in Nevada against a Republican opponent, President Obama referred to Reid's background as a boxer who "knew how to take a punch" and would always outlast his opponents.

Mr. Obama seemed to be drawing a comparison between the Nevada Senate contest and his own efforts to repair the economy in the face of what he calls a policy of obstruction by Republicans.

Reid who is trying to improve his position in the polls, sought to distinguish the attitude of Republicans in Washington toward Obama economic recovery efforts from Republicans in Nevada and elsewhere in the country.

"Senate Republicans have been the party of 'no', and that's not how Republicans are throughout the country, they're not the party of 'no', but the party of 'no' is in the U.S. Senate," said Harry Reid.

Unclear is whether there will be any improvement between now and the November mid-term elections in the president's job approval ratings which have hovered in the mid to high 40 percent range, below the majority level.

A poll by The Economist showed 52 percent of Americans disapproving of Mr. Obama's performance.   Others show Americans continued skepticism about the effectiveness of his economic recovery program.

There is also concern in the White House about weakness in support among independent voters who will be crucial in the November mid-term elections as well as in the 2012 presidential election.

A Gallup survey showed 38 percent of independents approving of the president's job performance, though his support among members of his own party remained strong at 81 percent.   

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