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Obama Returns to College Campus in Election Appeal to Students

Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama urged thousands of college students at a campaign-style rally last night to “stay fired up” and help Democrats hold back a Republican surge in November’s congressional elections.

Obama returned to the University of Wisconsin in Madison seeking to energize a voting base that he used to help propel his campaign for president and direct it toward the party’s candidates for the House and Senate.

“We need you to stay fired up,” Obama said at the event, which was broadcast to more than 200 other campuses. “We face another test and the stakes could not be higher.”

Wisconsin was the second stop in a four-state trip by the president to promote his policies and drum up support for Democratic candidates. Earlier in the day he talked with voters in New Mexico, where two Democratic House members elected on Obama’s coattails in 2008 are facing re-election.

The president and other members of his administration have been attempting to combat apathy in a midterm election year when turnout typically lags.

Obama told the Madison crowd that political analysts are predicting a Democratic “bloodletting” in the elections because his supporters have lost their enthusiasm.

“They’re basically saying you’re apathetic, you’re disappointed,” he said. “We cannot let that happen. We cannot sit this out.”

Election Outlook

The stakes are high for Obama and the Democrats. Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats to gain a majority in the 435-member House of Representatives. The non-partisan Cook Political Report in Washington forecasts Republicans will gain at least 40 seats after November’s election. In the Senate, where Republicans hold 41 of 100 seats, the Cook report says they are poised to pick up from seven to nine seats.

Graham Wilson, a Boston University political science professor and author of books on American politics, said Obama’s visit to the University of Wisconsin, a long-time bastion of Democratic support, is an indication of the party’s concerns before the election.

“If a Democratic president needs to go to Madison to get a crowd, that’s worrying for him,” Wilson said in an e-mail.

Obama attracted more than 25,000 people to last night’s rally, according to Sue Riseling, chief of the University of Wisconsin police department. Obama drew a crowd of 19,000 people when he appeared in Madison during the primary campaign in February 2008.

New Mexico Event

Earlier yesterday, Obama told the Albuquerque audience his policies have had “some success” in helping pull the U.S. out of the worst recession since the 1930s and that improving the nation’s education system is crucial to long-term prosperity. Republicans, Obama warned, would unravel that progress.

“I hope everybody is going to pay attention and do their homework and find out about candidates,” he said. “This election coming up in November is going to offer a choice on a whole range of different issues.”

He said Republicans would cut education funding by as much as 20 percent to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans as part of their “Pledge to America” plan for the congressional elections. He repeated that caution to the Wisconsin students.

“I just want everybody to think about those kinds of issues as you go into the polling place in November,” Obama said in Albuquerque. “Nothing’s going to be more important in terms of our long-term success” than education.

Iowa and Virginia

Later today Obama will have events in Iowa and Virginia.

Last night’s gathering in Madison is the first of four such rallies planned to aid Democratic Party effort to get young voters to the polls for the November elections.

“Every single one of you is a shareholder in that mission of rebuilding our country and reclaiming our future,” Obama said during the rally. “We are bringing about change and progress is going to come, but you’ve got to stick with me. You can’t lose heart.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Hans Nichols in Madison, Wisconsin, at hnichols2@bloomberg.net; Nicholas Johnston in Washington at njohnston3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva@bloomberg.net

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