President Barack Obama Monday launched the Democratic mid-term election campaign, urging his young, multi-racial supporters to thwart what an aide termed a Republican-induced “nightmare” at the polls.
Democrats fear heavy losses in the November election, which could put their grip on Congress at risk, as opinion surveys show Obama still has lagging approval ratings countrywide, despite several recent big victories.
In a YouTube video, Obama made the case that his presidency had delivered on historic health care reform and staved off an economic meltdown, but warned that his political foes hoped to slow his “incredible journey” of change.
He pledged to heed advice from grass-roots Democrats who told party leaders and to “make sure the same people who were inspired to vote for the first time in 2008 go back to the polls in 2010.”
“It will be up to each of you to make sure that the young people, African Americans, Latinos, and women, who powered our victory in 2008, stand together once again,” he said in the video mailed to Democratic activists.
“If you help us make sure that first-time voters in 2008 make their voices heard again in November — then together we will deliver on the promise of change, and hope, and prosperity for generations to come.”
David Plouffe, who masterminded Obama’s 2008 election win based on historic turnout from young, African American, independent and Hispanic voters, said in an email to supporters that he had prepared a “comprehensive electoral plan.”
While admitting “historical trends aren’t in our favor,” Plouffe said he believes “we can avoid the nightmare electoral scenario that Republicans in Washington have already convinced themselves will happen.”
Obama will step up his political effort on Tuesday, with a multi-stop campaign-style swing through key states Iowa, Missouri and Illinois.
Democrats must mount their campaign in a highly polarized political environment, with unemployment at 9.7 percent, and with many voters yet to feel the benefits of the nascent economic recovery.
Republicans meanwhile are lambasting Obama for “job killing” policies, and claim his economic and health care policies add up to a big government takeover incompatible with the political sensibilities of average Americans.
Obama’s tactics reflect the fears of some Democratic strategists that the massive grass-roots coalition which powered his 2008 presidential race will not show up for mid-term polls without the president on the ballot.
First-term presidents often take a pummeling in the first congressional elections of their administration, but Democrats hope a list of accomplishments and a recovering economy will curtail the losses.
“We are making the change that our nation so desperately needs,” Obama argued.
“We have passed historic health reform legislation. We have put our nation back on the path to prosperity with the Recovery Act. And we are moving America forward, one step at a time.
“But despite everything we’ve done, our work isn’t finished.
“Today, the health insurance companies, the Wall Street banks, and the special interests who have ruled Washington for too long are already focused on November?s congressional elections.”
The Democratic offensive will also likely target crucial independent voters, who flocked to Obama in 2008, but who some polls suggest are now drifting away from Democrats.
The president admitted in an CNBC interview last week he had not done enough to explain some of the crisis-induced measures he had been forced to take — though opponents charge he has simply embraced policies voters don’t want.
“What I have not done as well as I would have liked is to consistently communicate to the general public while we are making some of the decisions,” Obama said.
Most opinion polls show Obama’s approval rating at or just below 50 percent. Historically, presidents who enjoy the support of more than half of US voters have been able to mitigate losses in mid-term elections.
A generic average of party support nationwide ahead of the mid-term elections, compiled by the RealClearPolitics website shows Republicans ahead of Democrats by 45 to 42 percent.
Democrats have a list of tough-to-defend seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and a loss of control of Capitol Hill could severely impede Obama’s hopes of enacting top agenda items before his reelection push in 2012.
A third of the 100 Senate seats and all of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs in November.