As part of an ongoing effort to energize his Democratic base ahead of the mid-term election on Nov. 2, President Obama spoke with the Rev. Al Sharpton on his radio show Tuesday afternoon, calling on his supporters to show up at the polls so that he can continue to carry out his agenda.
The roughly 10-minute conversation followed a similar discussion the president had with Eddie "Piolin" Sotero, host of Univision's popular, syndicated, Spanish-language radio show "Piolin por la Manana", which aired Monday.
"Anybody who is concerned about the direction of the country has to understand that this election is as important as 2008," Obama told Sharpton.
There are as many as 100 competitive races for seats in the House of Representatives this year and the vast majority of them are held by Democrats. Many analysts expect Republicans to gain dozens of seats in the House, enough to gain control of the chamber. Obama performed strongly among minority voters in the presidential election and with one week to go, he is stepping up efforts to get out the vote in the black and Hispanic communities.
The president himself voted today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters during the press briefing, casting his absentee ballot for Democratic candidate for the Senate, Alexi Giannoulias, and for governor, Pat Quinn.
In the radio interview, the president stressed the middle class tax cuts included in the stimulus package, billions of dollars in neighborhood stabilization funds that he said were helping people in struggling communities get back to work, programs to help people avoid foreclosure and help for small businesses as steps his administration has taken to help ordinary people.
"All these provisions that we've put in place over the last two years are making big difference in the community, but that doesn't excuse the fact that we've still got a long way to go," he said in response to a question from Sharpton about his message to voters discouraged by the state of the economy. "Digging ourselves out of this hole is gonna take some time and understandably people feel frustrated and impatient; I feel impatient about it. But the question is are we gonna make sure that we continue on the progress that we're on or that we go back to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place."
The president said the Republican Party was focused on things like tax cuts for the rich and cuts to education funding rather than helping middle class Americans and young people.
"If we don't have strong leaders in Congress who are supportive of this agenda, who are supportive of moving the country forward," the president said. "If instead we've got folks who want to move backwards to the same failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place, then it's going to be very difficult for me to keep making progress and do what folks want to see me do over the next two years."
Obama also encouraged people who live in areas where they can vote early to go out and do it, directing people to the website www.raiseyourvote.com for information on how to do so. (His wife also touted the site in this video.)