Obama warns of policy rollback if Republicans win
CHICAGO (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned Saturday that Republicans could roll back his agenda if they prevail in Tuesday's congressional elections as he sought to rally Democrats in a final campaign push.
Making his way through a four-state tour, Obama implored Democratic voters to show up in large numbers. Polls show his party is likely to lose control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans 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 of years can be rolled back," Obama told cheering campaign volunteers at his first stop in Philadelphia.
In his hometown of Chicago, a crowd estimated by Democratic officials at more than 30,000 people held signs saying "Vote this Tuesday" and "Moving America Forward."
"We've got a lot of work to do, not only to move the country forward but to make sure that the progress we've made continues," Obama said.
The president and his Democrats are facing voter discontent over an ailing economy and persistently high unemployment.
Republicans have scored points by 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.
Representative John Boehner, who would likely be the new Speaker of the House if Republicans win a majority, said Obama's agenda had not fixed the country's economic problems.
"These problems didn't start under President Obama. But instead of fixing them, his policies have made them worse," Boehner said in the weekly Republican address.
Obama is battling an "enthusiasm gap," with polls showing Republicans more likely to vote than Democrats.
Another problem has been rising complaints from liberals, who helped sweep Obama 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.
"We're in a difficult election," Obama said in Philadelphia. "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, who faces re-election in 2012, is due to wrap up his campaigning for fellow Democrats Sunday in Cleveland, Ohio.
At campaign stops and 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 Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell.
Boehner said Republicans offered the country 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 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.