Obama presses for strong Democratic turnout
BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned on Saturday that if Republicans prevail in next week's congressional elections they could roll back his agenda, as he sought to rally fellow Democrats to the polls in a final campaign push.
But in another sign that some liberals have grown disillusioned over Obama's failure to fulfill their wishes, his campaign appearance in Connecticut was interrupted briefly by heckling protesters calling for more funding for the global AIDS fight.
Embarking on a four-state weekend campaign swing, Obama implored Democratic voters to turn out in large numbers on Tuesday. Polls show his party is likely to lose control of the House of Representatives and see its Senate majority weakened.
"Unless each and every one of you turn out and get your friends to turn out and get your families to turn out, then we could fall short, and all the progress that we've made over the last couple years can be rolled back," he told a cheering crowd of campaign volunteers at his first stop in Philadelphia.
The president and his Democrats are facing voter discontent over an ailing economy and persistently high unemployment.
Republicans have also scored political points attacking Obama's agenda, including a healthcare overhaul and huge economic stimulus plan, that they call a government overreach. Loss of the House could stall Obama's legislative efforts.
Obama is battling an "enthusiasm gap," with polls showing Republicans more likely to vote than Democrats.
Another problem for Obama has been rising complaints from liberals, who helped sweep him to victory in the 2008 election, that he has not done enough for their causes, such as ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, closing the Guantanamo military prison and reforming the immigration system.
At a rally in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Obama was heckled by a small group of AIDS activists chanting "Stop global AIDS," the latest of several such protests at his campaign events. The crowd of 9,000 drowned them out with chants of "Obama, Obama."
Forced off-script, an exasperated Obama urged the hecklers to redirect their protests at Republicans who he said had no interest in funding international AIDS programs.
Warning Democrats about what is at stake, Obama said in Philadelphia: "We're in a difficult election ... This election is not just going to set the stage for the next two years. It's going to set the stage for the next 10, for the next 20."
Obama was due to hold another rally in Chicago on Saturday before wrapping up his campaigning on Sunday in Cleveland.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama chided top Republicans, challenging them to make a fresh start and build a bipartisan effort to boost U.S. growth after the election.
"That's why I found the recent comments by the top two Republicans in Congress so troubling," Obama said as he urged Democrats and Republicans to work together on issues like extending middle-class tax cuts.
"The Republican leader of the House actually said that 'this is not the time for compromise.' And the Republican leader of the Senate said his main goal after this election is simply to win the next one," Obama said, referring to Representative John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell.
In the weekly Republican address, Boehner said that while the country's problems with debt, unemployment and public distrust of government did not begin under Obama, "instead of fixing them, his policies have made them worse."
He said Republicans were offering a "new way forward."
Republicans have marshaled public anger over federal bailouts of car companies and Wall Street banks into a potent attack on Obama, although some of the most despised measures were drafted under his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Dramatic steps were taken to confront the most severe U.S. recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, including an $814 billion emergency stimulus package signed by Obama that critics blame for contributing to a record U.S. budget deficit. The White House contends the nation would have been worse off without the stimulus plan and says it created jobs and gave a boost to the economy.