The president addressed the winter meeting of the Democratic
National Committee in Washington with the aim of maintaining a
spirit of unity among party activists. Democrats are trying to face
down emboldened Republicans who see a chance of capturing the Senate
and building on their majority in the House of Representatives.
Invoking Democratic heroes such as John Kennedy and Bill Clinton,
Obama told party faithful that Democrats can win "if we stay focused
on what we believe in."
All 435 members of the House and a third of the 100-member Senate
are up for grabs in November elections.
Obama faces a difficult challenge. The party that controls the White
House in these so-called "midterm" elections typically loses seats
Obama urged Democrats to resist any notion that they might lose,
noting their superior numbers in general.
"When Democrats have everybody in the field we cannot lose. That's
just a fact. That's just the raw numbers. When Democrats vote, we
win," he said.
Republican voter models, he said, "are constructed based on the idea
that Americans will sit out this election because they look at the
past, and in the past a lot of Democrats don't vote in the
Part of Democrats' struggles this year are of Obama's own making.
The rollout of his healthcare law last October has proven difficult
and is still controversial.
Obama ridiculed Republicans for continuing to try to repeal the law
and vowed to fight to make sure more Americans sign up for coverage
under the law.
"We will not apologize for it, it's the right thing to do," he said.
Obama made the case that there are still items on his agenda that he
would like to see approved in an election year. Immigration reform
stands out as one top item the president would like despite tough
But he also used his drive early this year to promote policies to
create jobs for the middle class as an election-year appeal for
voters to support Democrats.
He argued that Democrats stand for middle-class values versus
Republicans who stand for wealthier people.
"The choice couldn't be more clear. Opportunity for a few - or
opportunity for all," Obama said.
JOBS AND RIGHTS
Obama said the budget he plans to propose next week for fiscal 2015
will seek funding for projects to create jobs in manufacturing,
energy and infrastructure and will pay for the new spending "by
cutting unnecessary spending, and closing wasteful tax loopholes."
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The president, in a potential foreshadowing of attacks other
Democrats will use this year, also tied Republicans to a bill
supported by their party's legislators in Arizona to discriminate
against gays and lesbians on religious grounds.
"In some states,
(Republicans are) so far in the past they're even pushing laws to
legalize segregation based on sexual orientation," he said. Arizona
Governor Jan Brewer, also Republican, vetoed the bill on Wednesday.
Despite his ability to gin up fellow Democrats, Obama's overall
approval rating - 43 percent, according to an average of recent
polls by the Real Clear Politics website - is a warning to the
party. His popularity has suffered as a result of the disastrous
rollout of his healthcare law in October.
While the president is expected to travel widely this year on behalf
of his party, the White House acknowledges that Obama will steer
clear of Republican-leaning states where his presence would not
"The president's political goal is to win as many seats up and down
the ballot as possible. We recognize it doesn't make sense to have a
sitting Democratic president campaign in some of these redder
states," a White House aide said.
The White House approach is not "where can we campaign" but instead
is "how can we help," the aide said.
Twice elected president with overwhelming financial support, Obama
will engage in a sweeping effort to raise money for Democratic
He plans to headline 30 fundraisers through June, 18 for the DNC and
12 for party money-raising arms for House, Senate and gubernatorial
candidates, the aide said.
In addition, Obama will commit to attending events for House and
Senate Super PAC, an organization that pools campaign donations and
uses the money to campaign for or against a candidate.
Obama has spent much of the early part of this year pushing for
action in areas to help the middle class, such as raising the
minimum wage. This has the effect of creating a narrative for
Democrats to run on.
(Editing by Ken Wills)
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