Obama tries to rally worried Democratic governors

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama met with Democratic governors late Thursday, and offered them political support for November.

“If there’s one message I want to deliver today to every Democrat and every person who’s interested in supporting Democratic policies, it’s that you got to pay attention to the states,” said Obama, whose big government, big-spending policies prompted the tea party sweep of state elections in 2010.

“We know how to win national elections, but all too often, it’s during these midterms where we end up getting ourselves into trouble, because I guess we don’t think it’s sexy enough,” said Obama, whose low approval ratings are threatening his audience’s prospects in this year’s midterm election.

“The fact of the matter is, is that that’s where so much of the action is,” he said, in an attempted compliment.

Two days after the 2010 election, Obama portrayed the 2010 sweep as a defeat for himself. “I’m not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night,” he said in 2010.

Thursday’s speech underlined Obama’s growing interest in state elections.

“We want to make sure that all across the country, we are supporting governors who are saying, ‘I’m going to set politics aside, I’m going to do what’s right for my constituents,’” Obama said, to tepid applause from the assembled Democratic governors, appointees and advocates.

“If you don’t like seeing folks in state government trying to undermine Obamacare or chip away at women’s rights and women’s health, then I urge you… write a check,” first lady Michelle Obama said at an October fundraiser in D.C.

:”That’s what we need you to do right now.  We need you to write a big old check. Write the biggest check you can possibly write,” she told the donors.

Obama’s interest in state elections came after the tea party sweep in 2010.

Because of tea party enthusiasm, tally of Republican governors rose from 23 to 29, Republicans gained majorities in an additional nine state legislatures, and won majorities in four more state houses or senates.

Over the next several months, the new Republican legislatures voted through redistricting plans that cemented their control, likely until the next census. Since then, GOP governors and legislators have rebuffed many of Obama’s policies, especially his efforts to expand his Obamacare network.

GOP leaders hope to score big gains this November, and perhaps win a majority in the Senate. To boost their chances of a win, they’ve even announced they will sideline divisive priorities, including the business-backed Senate bill that would double the immigration of new workers.

On Thursday, Obama complained to the Democratic governors about GOP opposition to his progressive, government-first agenda. “State by state, Republican governors are implementing a different agenda,” he said.

“They’re pursuing the same top-down, failed economic policies that don’t help Americans… They’re paying for it by cutting investments in the middle class, oftentimes doing everything they can to squeeze folks who are bargaining on behalf of workers,” he complained.

Obama denied that GOP governors and policies have helped their states, and instead suggested that he deserves credit. “Some of them, their economies have improved in part because the overall economy has improved, and they take credit for it instead of saying that Obama had anything to do with it,” he said.

Obama also underlined what is fast becoming his main campaign theme. The “number one [priority] is on the minimum wage,” he said.

“Three out of four Americans support raising the minimum wage [and] the majority of not just Democrats but independents and Republicans think it’s important for us to make sure that if you work full-time you’re not in poverty,” he said.

Obama put himself at the centre of his speech, and offered patronizing compliments to the governors. “The fact that you guys on the front lines are willing to stand up courageously means the world to me,” he said.

“So thank you, everybody.  I appreciate it.  I’m proud of you,” he concluded.

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