February 27, 2024

The Commander in Chief : At N.C. State, Obama Gives Homework: Help Pass My Jobs Bill

Plunging into his third battleground state in five days, Mr. Obama told highly charged students in a packed basketball arena at North Carolina State University that he was sick of the partisanship that has engulfed Washington during the last three years. He accused lawmakers of deliberately dragging their feet on his economic plan, not because they don’t think it will help, but because they do not want to give him a political win.

“Give me a win?” Mr. Obama said, his voice rising as the crowd started cheering. “Give me a break. That’s exactly why folks are fed up with Washington.”

Even as initial polls suggest that only half of Americans support his jobs proposal, Mr. Obama appears convinced of his ability to sell it to the public, and he urged his audience to sell it in turn to their Congressional representatives.

“For those of you who did skip class today, I’ve got a homework assignment for you,” he said, asking that students “call, e-mail, tweet, fax, Facebook” their Congressional representatives with the message that “the time for partisanship is over. The time for action is now.”

Mr. Obama has been raising the energy level every day since announcing his jobs proposal last Thursday, and this event pushed it up another notch, appearing as part campaign rally and — this is North Carolina, after all — part basketball game.

The university’s marching band showed up in Reynolds Coliseum, accompanied by a squadron of cheerleaders and baton twirlers, to play Wolfpack fight songs for three hours before Mr. Obama arrived, to a capacity crowd of 9,000 people, including students who had camped out to claim tickets. In a surreal battle for musical supremacy, the band then kept interrupting the usual campaign-trail tunes (“I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers, “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen and the twangy “Only in America” by Brooks Dunn) with drumming, dance moves and chants of “Go State!”

Outside the coliseum, a group was handing out the New Testament in the 90-degree heat.

Mr. Obama’s political advisers say they believe strongly that he can compete in North Carolina, a conservative state with a changing demographic that the president improbably won in 2008, the first time a Democrat had taken the state since Jimmy Carter, a Southerner, did in 1976. Charlotte will be carrying the hopes of Democratic Party officials next year when it hosts the Democratic National Convention. And the capacity crowd here at North Carolina State certainly seemed pro-Obama.

But North Carolina’s big universities are notorious for being more liberal than the rest of the state. Republicans maintain that 2008 was a fluke, and signs point to a tough battle here for Mr. Obama. The state’s unemployment rate was 10.1 percent in July, and has been tracking above the national average. Last year, Democrats lost a House seat in the state, and Democrats also lost control of both houses of the state legislature.

Can Mr. Obama win again here? “No, I don’t think so,” said Greg Palmer, a senior, standing in the crowd at Reynolds awaiting Mr. Obama’s speech. Mr. Palmer said Mr. Obama won North Carolina in 2008 mostly on a swelling of the African-American vote, and added that he believed that the president’s policies had alienated North Carolinians.

But standing next to Mr. Palmer, Fiona Marsh, a recent transplant from Georgia, begged to differ. “North Carolina,” Ms. Marsh said, “is more enlightened. At least, more enlightened than Georgia.”

Mr. Obama seemed bent Wednesday on repeating his 2008 political feat, playing up to the crowd of screaming students. “It is good to have all these wolves in my wolfpack!” he said, igniting a frenzy of wild cheers. The crowd clearly energized Mr. Obama, who was sounding feistier than he has in the past.

There was even a return of the age-old “I love you Barack” from the 2008 campaign, as one audience member bellowed out. From the president, he received the standard response: “I love you back,” which ignited another rafter-shaking cheer. But then, Mr. Obama added: “If you love me, you’ve got to help me pass this bill.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d7608bd79f3ee242f6672bf0c8735fb3

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