Obama acknowledges struggling economy could hurt Democratic Party in November elections

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Obama concedes poor economy threatens Democrats

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is conceding that if the midterm election turns out to be mostly a referendum on the sluggish economy, Democrats are “not going to do well.”

In an interview with ABC News aired Thursday, Obama said the party should be able to maintain control of the House and Senate if the electorate takes a look at what Democrats and Republicans stand for. But he said Democrats won’t do well if it amounts to a referendum on “the economy as it currently is.” Obama said he believes “everybody feels like this economy needs to do better than it’s been doing.”

Obama rolled out a trio of new plans this week to help spur job growth and invigorate the lethargic national economic recovery. They would expand and permanently extend a research and development tax credit that lapsed in 2009, allow businesses to write off 100 percent of their investments in equipment and plants through 2011 and pump $50 billion into highway, rail, airport and other infrastructure projects.

Facing fresh signs that the recovery was running out of steam, the president’s economic team assembled the package. Unresolved is whether the proposal will jump-start Democrats’ political fortunes. The party in power is taking the blame for the millions of jobless Americans, and Democrats could lose control of Congress and several governorships.

Obama this week sought to sustain one advantage the Democratic Party has this election cycle: money. His Obama for America fund, the account built during his presidential campaign to cover potential legal costs, transferred $4.5 million to the Democratic Party’s top committees.

The Democrat known for packing stadiums from coast to coast also mapped out plans to host at least four major rallies in swing states before the Nov. 2 elections. The Democratic National Committee says that rallies are planned for Madison, Wis., on Sept. 28; Philadelphia on Oct 10; Ohio on Oct. 17, and Las Vegas on Oct. 22.

All four states have competitive Senate races. In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is one of the more endangered Democrats.

Obama also plans to host a teletown hall event on Oct. 12 to fire up backers of his 2008 presidential campaign in hopes they turn out for Democratic candidates this fall. And party aides say Obama will participate in fundraising and political events beyond the rallies and teletown halls, and the White House will deploy him as necessary in the coming weeks.

At stake this November are 435 House seats, 37 Senate seats and 37 governorships.

Obama criticized Republicans in the interview, saying, “I have not seen a single new idea out of the Republicans” to boost the economy. He commented after House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio proposed a two-year freeze on tax rates.

This week, Obama made one of his strongest appeals yet to allow the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush — in 2001 and 2003 — to expire at the end of the year on schedule, but just for individuals earning more than $200,000 annually or joint filers earning over $250,000. The changes would affect dividend and capital gains rates and various other tax benefits as well as income from wages and salaries.

Since all the tax breaks would expire automatically at the end of the year if Congress failed to act, that could result in sweeping increases for taxpayers at every income level — a major blow to recovery hopes and a colossal dose of blame for voters to parcel out to lawmakers and the White House.

On the political money front, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee each received $1.5 million from Obama’s fund. The DSCC and the DCCC had earlier split an $8 million transfer from Obama’s campaign account.

The party’s committees have a total cash on hand edge over the Republicans. The money is used to pay for advertising and to organize get-out-the-vote efforts. Democrats are getting help from unions and Republicans are getting a boost from outside groups, all of whom are devoting millions of dollars to the election.

AP National Political Writer Liz Sidoti contributed to this report.

will not be displayed