Nearing the end of extensive fundraising trip, Obama engages in kitchen-table politics in Ohio

By Ben Feller, AP
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Obama engaging in kitchen-table politics in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio — President Barack Obama rolled up his shirt-sleeves for a kitchen table conversation on the economy with an Ohio family.

On the final day of a three-day campaign trip around the nation, Obama met Wednesday with Joe and Rhonda Weithman and their two children in their home on a leafy, middle-class street in Columbus. Obama spoke with Joe Weithman about his efforts to jump-start the economy, initiatives the White House says have helped Weithman’s architectural firm.

Obama will also hold a casual backyard townhall with families from the Weithmans’ neighborhood before speaking at a fundraiser for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

Later Wednesday, Obama will travel to Miami to raise cash for Florida Democrats.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Pivoting from million-dollar fundraisers to more mainstream struggles, President Barack Obama is sitting down at the kitchen table of an Ohio family for a chat about the economy and a chance to promote his ideas.

In the most intimate setting of his three-day campaign trip around the nation, Obama was to meet Wednesday with Joe and Rhonda Weithman and their two children, 11-year-old Josh and 9-year-old Rachel. The president will then broaden the conversation in the backyard to include families from the neighborhood in what is being billed as a casual town hall.

Like any business owner, teacher or factory worker who is chosen to meet with the president, the Weithman family has a story Obama wants to tell. The White House says Joe Weithman is a co-owner of an architectural firm that has seen its business pick up because of government infrastructure spending. Rhonda Weithman lost her job last year but was able to keep her health insurance under aid provided through the economic stimulus law that the Democratic-led Congress approved.

With the nation’s unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent, Americans are increasingly frustrated with the progress Obama has made on the economy. Just 41 percent of those surveyed in a new Associated Press-GfK poll approve of the president’s handling of the economy, down from 44 percent in April. And 61 percent say the economy has gotten worse or stayed the same on Obama’s watch.

Still, three-quarters also say it’s unrealistic to expect noticeable economic improvements in the first 18 months of the president’s term.

Obama’s attempts to draw attention to what his administration has done to fix a flagging economy, plus what he still wants Congress to pass, come against the backdrop of a bitterly partisan midterm election season. He has spent the week promoting his message that voters should keep Democrats in power over Republicans that he claims lack any positive ideas.

All 435 House seats, one-third of the Senate and most governors’ jobs are on the ballot in November.

The political campaigning also continues Wednesday for the president.

Obama will speak at a fundraiser for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat trying to keep his job against a tough challenge by former Republican Rep. John Kasich. The president then will go to Miami to raise cash for Florida Democrats.

Already this week, the president’s stops have included a Los Angeles fundraiser that raised $1 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday, and two events in Seattle that raised $1.3 million for Sen. Patty Murray and Washington Democrats on Tuesday.

Obama’s aides say he takes seriously the job of giving personal attention to candidates and helping them make the case about the upcoming election.

The results are vital for him too, as Obama needs Democrats to retain their congressional majorities if he is to keep pressing an agenda that has received virtually no Republican support.

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