President Barack Obama said he expects the period after the November elections will open more opportunities for cooperation between Republicans and Democrats on issues including the deficit, education and energy policy.
Obama, answering questions from an audience mostly made up of college-age voters at a town hall in Washington, said he would seek out Republican ideas on issues such as education and energy policy in an effort to bring about more bipartisan cooperation.
“We’re going to have a greater spirit of cooperation after this election,” Obama said in response to a question from a member of the audience.
Republicans may overturn the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and shrink the Democratic edge in the Senate in the Nov. 2 elections.
Today’s televised town hall, carried live on Viacom Inc. cable channels BET, MTV, VH1 and CMT, follows recent political appeals Obama made to young voters at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and universities in Wisconsin and Maryland.
The president also took questions about his economic policies, education, immigration and the ban against openly gay men and women serving in the military.
Obama said the U.S. is facing “a critical time where we have to solve big problems.” While promising to reach out to Republicans after the election, he criticized the opposing party for throwing up roadblocks to cooperation on issues, particularly health care.
“Some folks made a decision that it would be useful for me to suffer this political defeat,” Obama said in response to a question from a woman who identified herself as a Republican.
He defended his economic policies to a questioner who asked why he should continue to support the administration when the recovery has been so slow.
Obama said most of the 8 million jobs lost during the recession that started in December 2007 “were lost before my economic policies were put into place.” The economic stimulus he pushed through Congress last year “worked in terms of helping to cushion the fall,” Obama said.
The president vowed to keep pressing the Senate to pass legislation that would repeal a law keeping in place the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays in the military.
Ending ‘Don’t Ask’
“Anybody should be able to serve and they should not have to lie about who they are in order to serve,” Obama said. “This policy will end. It will end on my watch.”
A federal judge in California ordered the military on Oct. 12 to “immediately suspend and discontinue any investigation, or discharge, separation or other proceeding” under the policy against anyone in its command.
Obama has been courting young voters to help his party beat back a challenge from Republicans to control Congress.
Democrats can’t count on the high turnout among 18- to 24- year-olds who helped propel Obama to victory two years ago, according to Curtis Gans, a professor at American University in Washington who studies U.S. voting patterns.
“They voted in 2008 because of Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and hope for a different type of politics,” he said. For this election, “they are disillusioned, and I don’t think via MTV or any other mechanism, the president will be able to create the type of fear that will mobilize young people to vote.”
Gans said he expects “a very low youth turnout,” likely less than in the 2006 midterms when Census Bureau data showed 19.9 percent of registered 18- to 24-year-olds voted.
Participation in midterm elections is historically much lower among all groups than in presidential years. In 2008, 44.3 percent of registered 18- to 24-years-olds voted. By comparison, 65 percent of registered voters ages 45 to 64 voted in 2008, according to the Census Bureau.
Adding to the challenge for Obama, voters under 30 say they are less interested in this year’s election than older voters, and their support for Obama has declined, according to a Pew Research Center poll of 2,816 registered voters conducted Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.
Obama’s approval rating among young voters has fallen to 58 percent, down from 71 percent in February 2009, the Pew poll found. His approval rating among all voters was 46 percent.
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