Obama tries to reach young voters on late-night TV

US president praises Democrats for taking "tough votes" on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, ahead of midterm elections.

October 28, 2010 10:19
4 minute read.
US President Barack Obama and Comedian Jon Stewart

obama jon stewart 311. (photo credit: AP)


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 President Barack Obama, looking to spark enthusiasm among younger voters ahead of Tuesday's congressional election, took his message to a place where they are likely to tune in: the popular late-night satirical news show of comedian Jon Stewart.

The appearance comes three days before Stewart holds a "Rally to Restore Sanity" — a denunciation of political extremism, likely to draw tens of thousands of fans to the US capital.

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It's the kind of huge crowd that Obama often drew during his campaign for president. But such turnouts have become rare for the president and his fellow Democrats. Republicans are the ones fired up in this election, with strong prospects for winning control of the House of Representatives and a slight chance of winning the Senate.

Obama has been trying to shrink what political analysts call the enthusiasm gap, trying to motivate key elements of his base, such as union workers, African-Americans, Hispanics and — with his Stewart appearance — younger voters.

Interviewed Wednesday on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," which is extremely popular with young viewers, Obama lauded several members of Congress for taking votes he said they knew would be bad politically but who did so because it was the right thing to do.

"My hope is that those people are rewarded for taking those tough votes," Obama said. If so, "then Democrats will be rewarded on election night."

Obama named Rep. Tom Perriello. The Virginia Democrat voted for the president's historic health care bill and is in a tight race. Obama plans to be in Virginia Friday to campaign with Perriello.

Obama said if lawmakers like Perriello are applauded for taking tough votes, "then Democrats will be rewarded on election night."

This year's election — with Republicans, their ultraconservative tea party allies and many independents angry and blaming Obama for the country's continuing economic malaise — will decide contests for all 435 seats in the House, 37 places in the 100-member Senate and 37 state governorships.

With a takeover in the House expected, Republicans also are forecast to make significant gains in the Senate but fall short of capturing a 51 seat majority. Their prospects are even better in the governor's races.

With the 50 states preparing to draw new congressional district maps after this year's national census, Republican governors will have a major say in that process — one that's would strongly favor Republican candidates in 2012.

That reality is guiding many of Obama's appearances in the final days of the Nov. 2 election campaign and is especially evident in Ohio.

Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton will be in the Midwestern state this weekend trying to save the candidacy of Gov. Ted Strickland and as many as six House seats in Tuesday's elections. The impact would extend beyond this year, affecting redistricting and support Obama would need from the battleground state for his re-election bid.

Strickland handily won the governorship by more than 23 percentage points in 2006 but now finds himself struggling to remain in the job against former Republican Rep. John Kasich.

Obama is scheduled Sunday to hold his last rally before Election Day in Cleveland, where he'll be joined by Biden — no stranger on Strickland's campaign trail. Clinton also planned to make three stops with the incumbent governor on Saturday.

Obama will have been in the White House and off the campaign circuit three days this week, but he's using part of that time to target key Democratic constituencies, holding conference calls with union activists and campaign volunteers, and doing interviews with radio stations that draw largely black audiences. Many of these campaign events are not publicized by the White House.

The president will wrap up the week with a final campaign swing through five states where Democratic candidates are locked in tight contests.

It's a homestretch strategy based on how the White House believes the president can be most effective in an election in which his name is not on the ballot but his agenda is up for debate. According to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, nearly half of likely voters say their votes for the House are intended to send a message about Obama.

White House officials say that while they still see value in the large rallies Obama has been holding across the country this month — he'll headline three more this weekend — they also recognize that with just six days until the election, many voters have already made up their minds.

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