President Barack Obama urged Nevadans to re-elect Harry Reid, saying he needs the Senate majority leader to continue work on the policies that brought the U.S. economy out of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
“If I’m going to be able to help middle-class families all across this country live out their dreams, then I want to have a partner in the United States Senate named Harry Reid,” Obama told a Las Vegas rally last night on the third day of a five-state western campaign swing.
Reid is locked in a tight race against Republican Sharron Angle, a Tea Party candidate. The contest illustrates Democrats’ difficulties as they seek to retain control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections. Nevada’s jobless rate is 14.4 percent, highest in the U.S., and the home foreclosure rate is five times the national average, according to RealtyTrac Inc. of Irvine, California.
Reid, a four-term senator, got 61 percent of the vote in 2004; this year, the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report rates the contest a tossup.
“Nevadans are fighting a tough fight, but we never give up,” Reid told the rally at a middle school. He called Angle’s ideas “extreme” and “dangerous.”
Obama and the Democrats are confronted with voter anger over the U.S. economy. An Oct. 7-10 Bloomberg National Poll shows that almost two-thirds of voters believe the country is on the wrong track, and unemployment is the top concern for about half the electorate. The deficit, which was almost $1.3 trillion for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, ranks as the second most pressing issue, cited by 27 percent.
During his speech in the state with the nation’s highest foreclosure rate, Obama mentioned the topic briefly, stopping short of addressing remedies or the concerns of state attorneys general that banks may have acted illegally to seize homes.
“Everybody here in Nevada knows we’ve still got a long way to go,” Obama said. “Families are hanging on by a thread, a lot of folks are seeing their homes lose a lot of value, a lot of foreclosures out here. It keeps me up at night, it keeps Harry Reid up at night. That’s what keeps us fighting.”
While Reid is among several Democrats who have urged lenders to put a moratorium on foreclosures because of questions about paperwork processing, Obama opposes a nationwide freeze because it could further damage to the housing market by holding up sales, spokesman Robert Gibbs said Oct. 12.
Obama has backed investigations by attorneys general in all 50 states, and federal regulators are reviewing whether employees of lenders including Ally Financial Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. have falsified documents used in foreclosure proceedings.
Administration officials said Obama will address the issue in the final days before the election because the foreclosure crisis illustrates one of the choices for voters.
“One of the things that Wall Street reform brought” is the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, White House senior adviser David Axelrod said.
Republicans are “going to shave the ability to provide oversight and rule-making to prevent the kind of errors that we’ve seen in the issuance of mortgages and the shortcuts that we’ve seen that have created all these problems,” Axelrod said.
After the Las Vegas rally, the latest in a series of similar gatherings intended to revive enthusiasm for Democrats among the voters who helped Obama win the presidency in 2008, the president attended a fundraiser for Reid.
Earlier yesterday, Obama raised money in Los Angeles and campaigned for Democrats including Barbara Boxer, a three-term senator who has a slight lead over Republican Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co.
Obama told a crowd at the University of Southern California that the election will determine whether the ideas they supported in 2008 are realized.
“In just 11 days you have the chance to set the direction of this state and of this country,” Obama said. “Just like you did in 2008, you can defy the conventional wisdom.”
Obama is campaigning in Democratic-leaning states where he is likely to have the biggest impact. He won all five states he is visiting this week in the 2008 election with majorities ranging from 54 percent in Minnesota to 61 percent in California. The president ends his campaign jaunt today in Minnesota with events for gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.
Obama stumped for Senator Patty Murray of Washington on Oct. 21. White House officials have said Washington and California are must-wins for Democrats to keep control of the Senate.
While in Los Angeles, Obama also taped an interview for the Piolin Show, a top-rated Spanish-language program broadcast in Southern California on radio station KSCA, set to air Oct. 25. California, the most populous U.S. state, is about 32 percent Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau.
Separately, the Democratic National Committee is spending more than $1 million on television and radio advertisements, in both English and Spanish, to encourage Hispanics to vote.
Obama will hold four more rallies the final weekend before the election in states he and other top administration officials have visited in recent weeks and where there are competitive Senate, House and gubernatorial races. On Oct. 30, Obama will stop in Philadelphia; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Chicago and Oct. 31 he will be in Cleveland, Ohio.