Obama to preach unity to Democrats at winter meeting

Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Organizing for Action's "National Organizing Summit" in Washington
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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at Organizing for Action's "National Organizing …

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Friday will lay out his approach to electing fellow Democrats in congressional campaigns this year as his party tries to overcome stiff headwinds brought about at least in part due to his signature healthcare law.

The president will address the winter meeting of the Democratic National Committee in Washington with the aim of maintaining a spirit of unity among party activists. Democrats are trying to face down emboldened Republicans who see a chance of capturing the Senate and building on their majority in the House of Representatives.

All 435 members of the House and a third of the 100-member Senate are up for grabs in November elections.

Obama will make the case that there are still items on his agenda that he would like to see approved in an election year. Immigration reform stands out as one top item the president would like despite tough odds.

But he will also use his drive early this year to promote policies to create jobs for the middle class as an election-year appeal for voters to support Democrats.

He will argue that Democrats stand for middle-class values versus Republicans who stand for wealthier people.

"The choice couldn't be more clear. Opportunity for a few - or opportunity for all," Obama will say, according to speech excerpts released by the White House.

Obama will say Republicans "keep telling the country what they're against," like his healthcare law or raising the minimum wage "or the very existence of climate change."

Democrats this year will say what they are for, "because the people we serve aren't interested in leaders who only root for failure or refight old battles. They want action that's focused on their lives; their hopes; their aspirations for their kids," Obama will say.

Obama will also say that the budget he plans to propose next week for fiscal 2015 will seek funding for projects to create jobs in manufacturing, energy and infrastructure and will pay for the new spending "by cutting unnecessary spending, and closing wasteful tax loopholes."

Obama faces a difficult challenge. The party that controls the White House in these so-called "midterm" elections typically loses seats in Congress.

A warning sign for Democrats is his overall approval rating, 43 percent, according to an average of recent polls by the Real Clear Politics website. His popularity has suffered as a result of the disastrous rollout of his healthcare law in October.

While the president is expected to travel widely this year on behalf of his party, the White House acknowledges that Obama will steer clear of Republican-leaning states where his presence would not help.

"The president's political goal is to win as many seats up and down the ballot as possible. We recognize it doesn't make sense to have a sitting Democratic president campaign in some of these redder states," the White House aide said.

The White House approach is not "where can we campaign" but instead is "how can we help," the aide said.

Twice elected president with overwhelming financial support, Obama will engage in a sweeping effort to raise money for Democratic candidates.

He plans to headline 30 fundraisers through June, 18 for the DNC and 12 for party money-raising arms for House, Senate and gubernatorial candidates, the aide said.

In addition, Obama will commit to attending events for House and Senate Super PAC, an organization that pools campaign donations and uses the money to campaign for or against a candidate.

Obama has spent much of the early part of this year pushing for action in areas to help the middle class, such as raising the minimum wage. This has the effect of creating a narrative for Democrats to run on.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid and Jonathan Oatis)

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