President Obama and Vice President Biden hit the student circuit today, aiming to get that old 2008 campaign feeling back.
It probably won’t be easy. Mr. Obama will be at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Mr. Biden will be at Penn State, in College Station, Pa., for rallies that only two years ago would have attracted thousands.
This year, Obama is not on the ballot, and Democrats are struggling to get their key demographic groups – young voters and minorities – as excited about voting in the Nov. 2 midterms as the Republicans are with theirs, an electorate that skews older, white, and male. A recent ABC/Washington Post Poll found that only 55 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say they are “absolutely certain” to go to the polls this year, as opposed to 78 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds and 77 percent of those over age 65.
Obama reached out to college journalists Monday, reminding them of the youth-oriented reforms he has implemented – such as taking student loans out of the private sector and allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 – and urging them to keep faith in the political process.
“I want to send a message to young people across the country about how important this election is,” Obama said on a conference call with student journalists. The president acknowledged that the democratic process isn’t always “fun and games,” and referred to the highly partisan battles that have marked his tenure in office.
“During that time, naturally, some of the excitement and enthusiasm started to drain away because people felt like, gosh, all we’re reading about are constant arguments in Washington and things haven’t changed as much as we would like as quickly as we’d like – even though the health-care bill got passed, and financial regulatory bill got passed, and we’ve brought an end to our combat mission in Iraq,” Obama said. “But still it seems as if a lot of the old politics is still operating in Washington.”
“Change is always hard in this country,” he told the students, seeming to preview Tuesday’s pep rally – or perhaps even going back to his days as a community organizer, when it could be hard to convince people that if they worked together, they could make a difference.
“You can’t sit it out,” he said. “You can’t suddenly just check in once every 10 years or so, on an exciting presidential election, and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans.”
A bipartisan Battleground Poll released Monday by Politico contained some alarming signs for the president. Just 38 percent of respondents said Obama deserves reelection, while 44 percent said they will vote to replace Obama (though without a Republican presidential nominee for 2012 anywhere in sight, that figure is highly subject to change).
Some 41 percent of the public hold an opinion of the new health reform law that is “very unfavorable,” compared with 18 percent who say “very favorable.”
The good news for Obama is that much of the public still has a favorable impression of Obama as a person (as opposed to his job approval). Sixty-five percent approve of him personally, while 25 disapprove.