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Obama Warns Against Voter Apathy in November Elections

President Barack Obama shakes hands after speaking at a rally on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, 28 Sep 2010
President Barack Obama shakes hands after speaking at a rally on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison, 28 Sep 2010

On his latest cross-country trip, with visits to four U.S. states, President Obama has ramped up his response to criticisms by opposition Republicans of his handling of the U.S. economy.  Mr. Obama is trying to re-energize the base of his Democratic party ahead of midterm congressional elections in November that could bring big gains for Republicans.

President Obama worries that the traditional base of his party may not turn out in strength in November.  This is amid predictions by political analysts that Democratic losses could equal or be worse than those in 1994 when Republicans won back majority control of Congress under President Bill Clinton.

At a boisterous rally at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Mr. Obama challenged those predictions, saying the stakes are too high for young Democratic voters and others to be apathetic or complacent.

"We cannot sit this one out, we cannot let this country fall backwards because the rest of us didn't care enough to fight," said President Obama. "The stakes are too high for our country, and for your future, and I'm going to get out there and fight as hard as I can and I know you are too to make sure we keep moving forward."

Under their "Pledge to America" unveiled recently, Republicans are calling for tax and spending cuts, federal government hiring freezes, and a repeal of President Obama's health care reform.  They assert that Obama policies have failed to create jobs and are driving the U.S. deeply into debt.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell repeated often-heard Republican's complaints about Mr. Obama's policies.

"A budget that explodes the national debt, a trillion dollar stimulus that failed to hold unemployment down to the levels we were told it would, a health spending bill that is already leading to higher costs, and a raft of other bills that expand Washington's role in people's lives," said Mitch McConnell.

Saying he knows times are tough for Americans,  President Obama appealed for a renewal of the enthusiasm that elected him president in 2008.

"If everybody who fought for change in 2008 shows up to vote in 2010, we will win," said Mr. Obama. "We will win, the polls say the same thing, we will win."

On this cross-country trip, the president has again used informal gatherings at family homes to drive home central points he wants Americans to remember when they vote in November.

Earlier, in New Mexico, he answered questions ranging from the economy and education to immigration reform, spoke about Republican obstruction to his legislative goals.

"This is the greatest country on earth and will continue to be the greatest country on earth, as long as we can go ahead and handle serious problems that we have instead of playing political games all the time," said Mr. Obama. "And when you look at the choices before you [between Democrats and Republicans] I think you have got to ask yourself who is offering serious answers."

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Mr. Obama said it would be "inexcusable...for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines" in the face of possible losses in November.

Asked about this, and remarks by Vice President Joe Biden about "political whining" in the Democratic base, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said the main message is about profound changes if Democrats don't turn out to vote in November.

Mr. Obama returns to Washington late Wednesday after stops in Iowa and Virginia, where he will hold additional informal conversations with Americans.

Awaiting him will be a major though long expected transition in the White House as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel prepares to announce his departure to run in the mayoral race in the U.S. city of Chicago.

Staff changes are common at the mid-point of a president's first term, and there has already been turnover in Mr. Obama's economic team.  Emanuel's expected departure has triggered speculation about who will manage day-to-day affairs, as well as other potential job shifts in coming months.

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