Obama sounds note of optimism about Democrats and November
President Barack Obama sounded an optimistic note about the Democratic Party’s prospects in upcoming congressional midterm elections, saying in an NBC interview that Democrats would “do just fine” if they could keep the focus on issues of substance.
“The question for voters over the next five weeks is: Who is putting forward policies that have a chance to move our country forward so that our schools have improved, so that we have a world-class infrastructure, so that we’re serious about helping small business, we’re serious about getting a handle on our spending, and who’s just engaging in rhetoric?” the president said near the end of a half-hour interview devoted mainly to education issues.
“And I think that if that debate is taking place over the next five weeks, we are going to do just fine,” he said.
At least part of his optimism appears to spring from “A Pledge to America,” the wide-ranging political manifesto that Republicans unveiled last month as part of their campaign to win control of the House of Representatives. The document proposes scaling back federal spending to 2008 levels and ending government control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It also calls for tougher border security, trying suspected terrorists in military courts and repealing Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.
Obama used the interview to turn up the rhetorical heat on the Republicans and their Pledge: “What I’m seeing out of the Republican leadership over the last several years has been a set of policies that are just irresponsible. And we saw in their Pledge to America a similar set of irresponsible policies.”
“They say they want to balance the budget,” he continued. “They propose $4 trillion worth of tax cuts and $16 billion in spending cuts. And then they say that we’re going to somehow magically balance the budget. That’s not a serious approach,” he said.
The Pledge is reminiscent of “The Contract with America,” which helped Republicans win control of the House during the second year of Democrat Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Democrats hope to avoid a repeat of the 1994 rout. They struggled throughout the summer against a tide of weak approval numbers for incumbents and Obama himself and sharp rhetorical attacks from Republicans and the conservative Tea Party movement. But more recently, some Democrats have begun pointing to signs of improvement in polling data.
It’s not that Obama thinks all Republicans are irresponsible, however.
“When I say Republicans, I really should say Republican leadership because I think there are a lot of wonderful people out there who consider themselves Republicans or independents who have maybe some criticisms of my administration but basically recognize we’ve got to solve some big problems, we’ve got to be serious, we’ve got to base our decisions on facts,” the president said.
Presumably, many of those Republicans would be voters.
Photo credits: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama); Reuters/Larry Downing (Republicans Unveil ‘Pledge’)