In Campaign Swing, Obama Seeks To Rally Base

President Obama held a backyard conversation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Tuesday morning. In the evening, he held an outdoor rally at the University of Wisconsin, hoping to regenerate some of the enthusiasm Democrats felt in 2008. Melissa Block talks to NPR's Scott Horsley.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And we go now to NPR's Scott Horsley, who's traveling with the president in Wisconsin. Scott, the rally tonight there in Madison seems reminiscent of the presidents campaign rallies from 2008. Whats the scene?

SCOTT HORSLEY: Melissa, I almost want to check the calendar here. It looks very much like the fall of 2008. The president is smiling, in shirt sleeves, standing outside a historical library here, surrounded by adoring supporters, many of them young people from the University of Wisconsin.

Young people, of course, were a big part of the presidents own victory two years ago. And a lot of the pundits have said theyre not going to come back to the polls in this midterm election for the Democrats. And President Obama effectively dared these young people to prove these people wrong.

President BARACK OBAMA: Theyre basically saying that youre apathetic, youre disappointed ah, well, were not sure that were gonna turn up. Wisconsin, we cant let that happen. We cannot sit this one out. We cant let this country fall backwards because the rest of us didnt care enough to fight. The stakes are too high for our country and for your future. And I am gonna get out there and fight as hard as I can, and I know you are, too, to make sure we keep moving forward.

BLOCK: The president there trying to inspire youth voters. Scott, what specifics is he offering, a voting message that might bring them to the polls in November?

HORSLEY: Melissa, his pitch is partly practical. Hes talking about the steps his administration has taken, for example, to make college tuition more affordable. Hes talked about the provision in the new health care law that allows young people can stay on their parent's health insurance plan until theyre 26 years old. That got a big cheer here.

But he's also just trying to recapture some of the excitement. Hes trying to, I think, recapture some of the imagery of that victorious 2008 campaign. He acknowledged that a lot of people are frustrated with the pace of change. Hes frustrated, too. But he said this is not the time to lose heart.

BLOCK: OK. So, that message to students there in Madison, Wisconsin tonight. Earlier today, the president was in Albuquerque, New Mexico - much smaller, more intimate conversation. Tell us about that.

HORSLEY: Yeah, the president's been holding a lot of these they call them backyard sessions, with middle-class voters. The administration apparently thinks this is a positive view for the president, it looks good on TV. So theyre gonna keep doing them. Theyre gonna be doing more later this week.

Today, they were in a ranch house outside of Albuquerque, with the Cavalier family. Mr. Cavalier is a retired Marine staff sergeant; his wife is a longtime educator. He was talking a lot about education and the steps his administration has taken, steps he says would be in jeopardy should the Republicans take control of Congress in November.

BLOCK: Now, Scott, this is the president's first extended campaign trip this fall. What's to come?

HORSLEY: He's going to be campaigning tomorrow in Des Moines, Iowa and Richmond, Virginia. Again, highlighting differences with the Republicans. Hes talking a lot about the Republican pledge that they released last week.

And it's interesting to see who campaigns alongside the president. Martin Heinrich, the New Mexico congressman, was at his side in Albuquerque today, but some of the most embattled lawmakers are keeping their distance from Mr. Obama. There was some question here in Wisconsin whether the Senate candidate, Russ Feingold whos in a tough reelection campaign would appear at this rally. In the end, he did.

BLOCK: Okay. NPRs Scott Horsley, speaking with us from Madison, Wisconsin, where hes traveling with President Obama. Scott, thanks very much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Melissa.

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