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GOP takeover of Congress would mean 'hand-to-hand combat,' Obama warns

A Republican majority would threaten policies to stabilize the economy, the president says during a radio interview, part of an effort to rally key Democratic constituencies.

October 07, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — A Republican majority in Congress would mean "hand-to-hand combat" on Capitol Hill for the next two years, threatening policies Democrats have enacted to stabilize the economy, President Obama warned Wednesday.

Speaking on Michael Baisden's syndicated radio show, Obama also made a direct appeal to African Americans about the importance of the November vote, even though he's not on the ballot himself.

"The reason we won [in 2008] is because young people, African Americans, Latinos -- people who traditionally don't vote in high numbers -- voted in record numbers. We've got to have that same kind of turnout in this election," he said. "If we think that we can just vote one time, then we have a nice party at Obama's inauguration, and then we can kind of sit back and suddenly everything's going to change – that's just not how it works."

Obama called into Baisden's show, syndicated to 71 radio stations in 21 states, as part of his effort to rally core Democratic constituencies with less than four weeks before the election. Although his campaign itinerary is limited by sagging approval ratings in key states, Obama is making a more-targeted effort focused on supportive venues like Baisden's show.

"Everybody in the barbershops, the beauty shops, and at work -- everybody's got to understand: This is a huge election," he said. "If we turn out in strong numbers, then we will do fine. If we do not, if we are depressed and decide, well, you know, Barack's not running right now, so I'm just going to stay home, then I'm going to have my hands full up here on Capitol Hill."

Days before the release of a key jobs report, Obama said most of the job losses his administration gets blamed for occurred before "any of my economic plans were put into place," and that the country is still "experiencing the hangover from the misguided policies" of the last decade.

Obama said a big voter turnout was vital, both to counter millions of dollars being spent by outside groups and the enthusiasm Republicans have demonstrated.

"They are fired up. They are mobilized. They see an opportunity to take back the House, maybe take back the Senate," he said. "If they're successful in doing that, they've already said they're going to go back to the same policies that were in place during the Bush administration. That means that we are going to have just hand-to-hand combat up here on Capitol Hill."

Obama is returning to the campaign trail Thursday, with an appearance just outside Washington in support of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's reelection campaign. Later, he'll travel to Chicago for events to raise money for Illinois Democrats, including Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias and Gov. Pat Quinn.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said Thursday that Obama has "no coattails," even in his home state.

"In fact, both the appearance of the president and Rahm Emanuel popping his head up has done a lot to motivate our base," he said.

mmemoli@tribune.com

twitter.com/mikememoli

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