Obama Starts Stumping for Midterms

President Barack Obama's upcoming trip to New Mexico, Wisconsin, Iowa and Virginia aims to reach people who are frustrated with the economy and young voters, says NPR's Scott Horsley.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

President Barack Obama hits the campaign trail tomorrow. Over the next three days, he'll visit four states to try to rally support for Democratic congressional candidates. With high unemployment, the jobs of many Democratic lawmakers could be in jeopardy, along with Democratic control of the House and perhaps the Senate.

NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley joins us to discuss the trip. And, Scott, the White House is billing this trip as part of an ongoing conversation with middle-class voters. What's the goal?

SCOTT HORSLEY: Liane, this is something the White House started over the summer. And the idea is to have a more natural interaction with voters than some stiff East Room event at the White House. Of course, there's nothing terribly natural suddenly showing up in someone's backyard with a whole bunch of TV cameras, but the idea is to reach out to people who are frustrated with the economy - and there's no shortage of those.

Mr. Obama's going to be going Albuquerque, New Mexico; Des Moines, Iowa; and Richmond, Virginia - all states where the unemployment rate is below the national average - in the case of Iowa, well below, but also states where Democratic lawmakers are facing some tough battles for reelection.

HANSEN: The president will also hold a big rally on Tuesday in Madison, Wisconsin. Who's the intended audience there?

HORSLEY: Yeah, this is the first of four big rallies the president's going to be holding between now and election day, and this one is focused on young voters. Madison's a college town. The singer Ben Harper is going to be the president's opening act.

Young voters, you'll remember, turned out in big numbers for the president two years ago. And part of the Democrats strategy is to get some - not all - but some of those new voters who came out in 2008 back to the polls in 2010. When you look at polls out there of all registered voters, Democrats and Republicans are roughly tied. It's when you poll only the voters who are most likely to go to the polls that you see the GOP advantage. The Democrats are hoping to perhaps close some of that enthusiasm gap.

HANSEN: We hear over and over that the economy is the number one concern for voters. Is the economy getting any better?

HORSLEY: This past week again is one where we saw a lot of mixed signals. On Friday, we got an encouraging report about orders for durable goods. That sent the stock market soaring. And it was the fourth week in a row for a good week for the stock market. Just the day before though, we saw another uptick in initial claims for unemployment, showing the job market is still very slow to recover. That's become the number that everyone focuses on - what's happening with jobs.

And the president himself has said if you're out of work or someone you love is out of work, looking for a job, the only economic indicator you really care about is someone telling you you're hired.

HANSEN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Scott, have a nice trip.

HORSLEY: Thank you so much.

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