President Obama speaks during a rally for Oregon gubernatorial candidate… (EPA )
Reporting from Portland, Ore. — Opening a three-day Western campaign swing, President Obama said Wednesday night that if Republicans regained control of Congress they would reinstate policies that cut taxes for the richest Americans, make it easier for companies to pollute, and let middle-class families "fend for themselves."
"This election isn't about anger; it isn't about fear," Obama told a crowd of about 10,000 people at the Oregon Convention Center. "This election is a choice, and the stakes could not be higher."
Leaning forward at the lectern, his voice hoarse, Obama challenged the notion that he hadn't accomplished as much as his most ardent supporters had hoped. With passage of a healthcare overhaul, many people will no longer have to choose between paying their mortgage or treating their cancer, he said. Combat forces have come home from Iraq and prospects are brightening for small-business owners, he said, thanks to the administration's economic policies.
"Don't let them tell you that change isn't possible," Obama said.
Obama's appearance was aimed at helping Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber, who is in a tight race against former Portland Trailblazer basketball player Chris Dudley, a Republican.
Over the next few days, Obama will campaign for embattled Democratic candidates up and down the West Coast in hopes of retaining Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. On Friday he will rally supporters at USC in Los Angeles.
Obama is devoting special attention to rallying core Democratic voters while also trying to persuade first-time voters from the 2008 presidential race that they shouldn't sit out the election on Nov. 2. If everyone who voted in 2008 votes this year, he told the audience, "John [Kitzhaber] is going to win this election."
Obama entered to a thunderous ovation. The applause subsided a bit when he mentioned that his brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, coaches the Oregon State University basketball team — an admission that generated a few boos, perhaps from fans of in-state rival University of Oregon.
But Obama also had said that his best friend from high school lives in Eugene and is a big Ducks fan.
"I root for them both," Obama told the crowd. "I've got the whole state covered."
At one point Wednesday, a heckler who shouted "Liar!" as Obama delivered his speech was escorted out by security guards.
Portland has been friendly territory for Obama. As a candidate in May 2008 he drew 75,000 people at an outdoor rally he described at the time as "the most spectacular setting with the most spectacular crowd that we have had in this entire campaign."