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Low-polling Obama stumps on economy

President Barack Obama smiles while listening to a question during a town hall-style meeting held at Cross Campus on Thursday in Santa Monica, Calif. (Associated Press)
President Barack Obama smiles while listening to a question during a town hall-style meeting held at Cross Campus on Thursday in Santa Monica, Calif. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – President Barack Obama is all in with his economic pitch. The American public is not. Over the next 27 days, either the public or the president is going to get the message.

In a midterm campaign strategy fraught with risk, the White House is betting that Obama’s tight embrace of the economic recovery and populist proposals for gender pay equity and a higher minimum wage will galvanize his core supporters and persuade fence-sitting independents to help Democrats retain narrow control of the Senate in November.

Addressing young entrepreneurs Thursday at a startup center in California, Obama highlighted his economic record for the third time in eight days.

While noting that he’s not on the ballot in this election, Obama has become fond of saying that his policies are at stake. The line has prompted a reflexive flinch from Democrats who are trying to fend off a concerted Republican campaign to link Democratic opponents to the president.

For Democrats, the problem is not Obama’s message; it’s the pitchman. “The messenger is not the most popular guy on the planet right now,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.

Public opinion polls show substantial support for Obama’s proposals to raise the minimum wage, seek pay equity for women and close corporate tax loopholes. But on the economic issues he’s most associated with – the fitful recovery from the Great Recession and his health care law – the American public is not with him.

A September AP-GfK poll found 40 percent approve and 58 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy, and that 41 percent approve and 58 percent disapprove of his handling of health care. Overall, Obama’s national approval ratings are 44 percent, compared to 51 percent who disapprove, according to the latest numbers from Gallup.

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