Obama touts job creation as midterm elections near
WOONSOCKET, Rhode Island
WOONSOCKET, Rhode Island (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday touted his administration's job-creation efforts just eight days before elections in which voters' economic anxiety threatens his Democrats' grip on Congress.
Making a campaign stop in the tiny state of Rhode Island, Obama acknowledged some of his policies were not popular and that Americans were frustrated by the weak economic recovery. But the steps he took averted a second Great Depression, he stressed.
"It took us a long time to get us into this economic hole that we've been in. But we are going to get out and I am absolutely convinced there are brighter days ahead for America," Obama told workers after touring the American Cord & Webbing plant in Woonsocket, outside Providence.
It was the start of the last full week of campaigning before the November 2 elections, with polls showing Obama's Democrats at risk of losing control of the House of Representatives and headed for a slimmed-down majority in the Senate.
U.S. voters will elect 435 members to the House of Representatives and fill 37 of the 100 seats in the Senate.
Projected Republican gains could put the brakes on Obama's legislative agenda.
Obama used his Rhode Island visit to highlight a $30 billion small-business lending program to help generate jobs, a package he pushed through Congress in September. Republican opponents have called it wasteful spending.
TALKING A GOOD GAME
Obama repeated his charge that Republicans had played politics with the small-business lending package by holding it up in the Senate for months. The bill finally cleared the U.S. Congress in September.
"They talk a good game about tax cuts and giving entrepreneurs the freedom to succeed," he said. But "they voted against tax breaks for companies creating jobs here in the United States," he said.
Obama's attacks on Republicans have done little to dent voter disappointment with his economic policies, which have so far failed to bring down unemployment stuck near 10 percent.
Delivering change is hard and it is understandable that people are discouraged, "but we're just in the first quarter," Obama told a Democratic fundraising event in Providence. "We have a whole game to play."
The fundraiser was one of two for the congressional campaign of Providence Mayor David Cicilline and other candidates in Rhode Island, a traditionally Democratic-leaning state.
Polls show Cicilline with a lead of about 10 percentage points over Republican state lawmaker John Loughlin in the race to succeed Democrat Patrick Kennedy in the U.S. House, but Obama's visit showed he was taking no chances.
Obama has found himself in a bind, however, over the governor's race in Rhode Island.
The president has withheld endorsement of the Democratic candidate, state treasurer Frank Caprio. He is in a tight contest against former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who is running as an independent and was a high-profile endorser of Obama during the Democratic primaries in 2008.
Caprio, on hearing that Obama had no plans to formally back anyone in the race, told Rhode Island radio station WPRO that Obama can "take his endorsement and really shove it as far as I'm concerned." He called the decision "Washington insider politics at its worst."
White House deputy spokesman Bill Burton told reporters traveling on Air Force One, "Out of his respect for his friend Lincoln Chafee, the president decided not to get involved in this race."
Burton said Obama was "comfortable" with his decision.
Obama is keeping up a busy schedule of campaign appearances this week aimed at rekindling the enthusiasm that helped sweep him to victory two years ago.
The congressional elections are widely seen as a referendum on Obama's own record.
Obama is trying to show voters -- especially the middle class seen as crucial to embattled Democrats' electoral prospects -- that he and his party are doing everything they can to boost the tepid U.S. economy.
(Additional reporting by Ross Colvin and Alister Bull; editing by Jim Marshall)
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