Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama urged Democrats to work for the party’s candidates in the last days before November’s elections, saying Republican victories would bring back policies that caused the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Saying the Republican campaign strategy is based on “amnesia,” Obama told a rally in Oregon that the recession “started long before I took office” and that voters on Nov. 2 will determine the course of the U.S. economy.
“They figure you’re going to forget, because you’re angry,” Obama said at a rally in Portland for Oregon’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber. “This election isn’t about anger, it isn’t about fear. This election is about a choice, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.”
The rally at the Oregon Convention Center is Obama’s first stop in a five-state campaign swing as he seeks to generate enthusiasm among Democratic voters less than two weeks before the U.S. elections.
With jobs and the economy a top issue for voters and the nation’s unemployment rate at or above 9.5 percent for the last 14 months, the president is making a final push to stump for Democratic candidates and defend his economic policies. Republicans are pushing to cut the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate and potentially take control of the House of Representatives.
Obama is traveling to Democratic-leaning states where he’s likely to have the biggest impact. In Oregon, polls show that Kitzhaber, a former two-term governor, is in a tight race with Republican candidate Chris Dudley, a former National Basketball Association player.
While Obama won Oregon in 2008 and Democrats have held the state’s governorship for six straight terms, Kitzhaber is up against Dudley’s nearly 2-to-1 fundraising advantage and an election-year climate that’s challenging for Democrats.
“You can defy the conventional wisdom,” said Obama, who told supporters he was hoarse from a cold. “There’s always somebody out there saying, ‘No, you can’t.’ But in two weeks, you’ve got a chance to say, ‘Yes, we can.’”
Obama and the Democrats are confronting voter anger over the state of the U.S. economy. An Oct. 7-10 Bloomberg National Poll shows that almost two-thirds of voters believe the country is on the wrong track, and unemployment is the top concern for about half the electorate.
The deficit, which was almost $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, ranks as the second most pressing issue, cited by 27 percent.
Oregon has 10.6 percent unemployment, 1 percentage point higher than the U.S. average, and more than 200,000 citizens out of work. The state faces a deficit of more than $14 billion over a decade at its current service level, according to the office of Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski, who can’t run again because of term limits.
Kitzhaber told supporters that Obama has worked against difficult odds to improve the U.S. economy. “None of this has been easy, but the president has had the courage to spend a lot of political capital to get us where we are today,” he said.
The nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report says Oregon’s gubernatorial race is a tossup that’s leaning Republican and that Republicans, who control 24 governorships already, may gain at least six in the Nov. 2 election.
Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats to get a majority in the 435-member House of Representatives. The Rothenberg report forecasts that Republicans will gain 40 to 50 seats, and possibly as many as 60. In the Senate, where Republicans now hold 41 of 100 seats, Rothenberg expects Republicans to pick up six to eight seats, not enough to claim a majority.
--With assistance from Dan Levy in San Francisco. Editors: Bob Drummond, Joe Sobczyk.
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