CHICAGO (AP) — President Barack Obama made a final-weekend plea to his hometown supporters to defy expectations and tamp down a Republican tide that many people expect to crest in Tuesday’s elections.
“Chicago, it’s up to you to let them know that we have not forgotten, we don’t have amnesia,” the president told a large outdoor crowd near his home, referring to the economic recession that hit during George W. Bush’s presidency. He said the election is a choice between the policies that caused the problems and policies that will lead the country to better times.
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But going back to greater GOP control would be just fine, said Rep. John Boehner, in line to become the new speaker if Republicans take the House, as expected. He declared, “Americans are demanding a new way forward in Washington.”
Embarking on a four-state weekend campaign dash, Obama acknowledged the difficulties Democrats face — the distinct chance of losing their comfortable majority in the House and possibly the Senate, as well as several governors’ seats.
All four weekend stops are in states Obama carried in 2008 — Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois and Ohio. But Democratic candidates for the Senate, House and governorships are struggling in these places and elsewhere, and Obama is making a last-ditch plea for the party’s core supporters not to abandon them.
“It is difficult here in Pennsylvania, it is difficult all across the country,” Obama told several hundred campaign volunteers at Temple University in Philadelphia, a Democratic-leaning city he has visited often.
The weekend tour marks the president’s last campaign swing of the election season, with Republicans expecting big victories on Tuesday. Obama’s sagging popularity has limited his ability to save Democratic candidates, and his legislative agenda may be deeply complicated if the GOP takes over the House, as many expect.
Unless Democratic voters turn out in big numbers, Obama said in a seven-minute talk, all the progress made in the past two years “can be rolled back.”
Several of Pennsylvania’s U.S. House Democrats are battling for survival, as is the Senate nominee, Joe Sestak.
Republicans expect to win the governor’s seat, as two-term Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell is term-limited.
Democratic prospects appear somewhat better in Connecticut, Obama’s second stop. The party has high hopes for Senate nominee Richard Blumenthal and gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy, although neither race is considered in the bag.
But freshman Rep. Jim Himes faces a tough challenge from Republican Dan Debicella, and organizers allowed Himes to introduce Obama to loud applause from more than 9,000 people at the Bridgeport Arena.
Obama urged Democrats to “defy the conventional wisdom” that foresees huge GOP wins.
“There’s no doubt this is a tough election,” he said, “because we have been through an incredibly difficult time as a nation.”
In his appearances Saturday, Obama did not mention the thwarted mail bomb plot or the arrest in Yemen of a woman suspected of sending two mail bombs.
He is to headline a final rally Sunday in Cleveland before returning to Washington for Halloween with his family.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said it’s time to put aside partisanship. But his appeal for unity included jabs at GOP leaders for comments he called troubling.
Boehner, currently the House minority leader, “actually said that ‘this is not the time for compromise,”‘ Obama said. He said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky “said his main goal after this election is simply to win the next one.”
“I know that we’re in the final days of a campaign,” Obama said in his weekly address. “So it’s not surprising that we’re seeing this heated rhetoric. That’s politics. But when the ballots are cast and the voting is done, we need to put this kind of partisanship side — win, lose or draw.”
The Democratic National Committee put an ad featuring Obama on the air this weekend that warned of record cuts in education and rollbacks in financial accountability if Republicans take control of Congress.
Boehner, in the weekly Republican radio address, said Obama has failed to deliver the change he promised — and American workers have lost jobs as a result of White House policies. The Ohio Republican spoke up for a GOP pledges to cut spending and keep taxes at current levels.
“This is a new way forward that hasn’t been tried in Washington yet,” Boehner said. “It’s a break from the direction in which President Obama has taken our country. And frankly, it’s also a break from the direction in which Republicans were headed when Americans last entrusted us with the reins of government. The American people are in charge, and they deserve nothing less.”
Candidates were everywhere on Saturday, making last-weekend pitches for support.
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