SEATTLE, WA -- With less than two weeks to go before the midterm elections, President Obama began his second day of a five-state, six-city get-out-the-vote swing with a backyard event focusing on women and the economy.
The town hall-style event at a private residence was followed by a rally for Sen. Patty Murray (D), who is locked in a tight race with Dino Rossi (R) and whose seat, if saved, would help ensure that Democrats maintain control over the Senate. Many political analysts expect the party to lose control of the House of Representatives.
The White House continues to make the case that the president and his allies in Congress have made tough -- and sometimes unpopular -- decisions to put the American economy back on track and better prepare it to compete globally, and that electing Republicans to Congress would reverse course.
"This choice is an election between two different visions of America, a choice between falling backwards and moving forward," Obama told the crowd at the Murray rally in the packed University of Washington basketball stadium. "If they win this election, the chair of the Republican campaign committee has promised -- publicly said they're gonna pursue the exact same agenda as they did before I was elected."
The president went on to spell out a GOP agenda based on tax cuts for the rich, looser rules for special interests and a middle class left to fend for itself.
It's not so clear the argument against the Republicans is taking hold with voters.
Supporters have suggested the administration has a communication problem. At one point during the backyard event earlier today, the president was asked how his administration could better communicate to the public the benefits of the health-care law and the stimulus given "distortions" about both in the media.
On health care, the president said that many of those distortions would be cleared up as the legislation is implemented. Once people see the benefits, it will be harder to argue the law was a terrible thing, he said, but that requires 'constantly beating the drum' and being clear about what's in the bill.
"I think we’re going to look back 20 years from now and say this was absolutely the right thing to do," Obama said.
Democrats have 12 days, not 20 years, to convince voters the country is on the right track and though the president's approval rating stands at 47%, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, some 59% of registered voters think the country is headed in the wrong direction and even more believe the economy will get worse or stay the same over the next year. That has helped Republicans to maintain a 50% to 43% lead over Democrats on the generic ballot among likely voters.
Still, according to the same poll, Democrats now lead Republicans 46% to 44% in the generic ballot among registered voters, up from the 44%-44% tie in September.
This is where getting out the vote comes in, the president told the crowd at a rally in Portland, OR last night for gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber, where by a show of hands, most in the crowd had not yet mailed in their ballots.
"We need you all to mail in your ballots. Now. Mail them in," he said. "If everybody who fought for change in 2008 shows up to vote in 2010, then John is going to win his election."
Murray and the president made a similar plea at today's rally in Seattle. Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) and Rep. Norman Dicks (D) were also on hand for the event, where an enthusiastic crowd that began lining up for the event several hours early, chanted 'Patty, Patty' and waved signs reading "Patty Murray 'Helping People Solving Problems" and "Patty fights for families." The Murray campaign said some 10,000 people jammed the stadium, with another 3,000 in overflow.
It wasn't all supporters, though. Five young men in blue Rossi shirts stood stock still in an upper tier of the stadium for most of the event, as Murray fans cheered around them.
After leaving Washington, the president was headed to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis for a series of party fundraisers and rallies for Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Harry Reid, among others.
Republicans in Washington state argue the multiple visits by Washington, DC "celebrities" Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama to the state to help Murray show that Democrats are in "panic" mode and in "deep", "desperate" straits.
They think they are helping Murray, but it's a double-edged sword," Washington State GOP Chairman Luke Esser told reporters on a conference call.
"They have made a strategic error by tying her so strongly to the DC insiders," Esser said, echoing the argument Rossi is making that Murray puts the interests of Washington, DC ahead of those of Washington state