Obama Ramps Up Rhetoric Against Republicans on Campaign Trail

President talks about the economy and raising money for Democrats.

ByABC News
July 7, 2010, 4:24 PM

July 9, 2010 -- Forward not backward: That's the mantra President Obama wants to drill into voters' heads between now and November.

"It's a choice between the policies that led us into this mess and the policies that are leading us out of this mess," he said Thursday at a fundraiser for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan.

Such framing of the November midterm elections is a classic political strategy. The party in power wants to avoid turning voters' decisions into a referendum on it, but at the same time wants to tout its own policies as the best solutions for existing problems.

"We don't have to guess how the other party will govern, because we're still living with the results from the last time," Obama said Thursday, referring to when Republicans controlled the White House and Congress.

Meanwhile, Obama hit the road today for a mix of policy and politics, using a two-day trip to Missouri and Nevada to tout clean energy and job creation and also bring in some campaign cash for two vulnerable Democratic Senate candidates, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Carnahan.

Obama began using the forward-backward theme in recent speeches on the economy as a way to promote the stimulus act, health care overhaul and his plan for job creation.

He took it out for a spin Thursday night on the fundraising circuit and ramped up the rhetoric against the Republican Party.

"It's a little odd getting lectures on sobriety from folks who spent like drunken sailors for the better part of the last decade," Obama said. "You'd think that after turning a record Clinton surplus into a record deficit and record debt, they'd be a little shy about this."

Obama said that Republicans whose policies "gave us the economic crisis" now want to get back behind the wheel after driving the economy into a ditch.

"They want the keys back, and you've got to say ... the same thing to them that you say to your teenager," the president said. "You can't have the keys back because you don't know how to drive yet. You can't have the keys. Maybe you take a remedial course. Or I'll take you out to the parking lot and you can drive in circles. But we're not going to let you out on the open road."

In both states, Obama tried to paint the Republicans in Washington, D.C., as cut from the same cloth.

"They've got that 'no' philosophy; that 'you're-on-your-own' philosophy; the status quo philosophy, a philosophy that says everything is politics and we're just going to gun for the next election, we don't care what it means for the next generation," he said in Missouri. "And they figure if they just keep on saying no it'll work for them, they'll get more votes in November because, if Obama loses, they win."

In Las Vegas, Obama stood beside Reid and described him as a scrappy fighter who will work hard for the people of Nevada.

"You know Harry used to be a boxer, he likes to brag about that, but he brags in his Harry way: 'I wasn't big, obviously, but I could take a punch,'" the president said. "He's taken his lumps, we all have. But I have no doubt that the people in Nevada will realize the quality of public servant they have in Harry Reid partly because he knows no matter what kind of lumps he's taking, nothing compares to the lumps folks back home have been taking."

The dynamics of the Senate race in Nevada -- and politics in general -- are different than the last time Obama campaigned for Reid back in February.

Sen. Scott Brown had just won an upset victory in the race to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, breaking the Democrats supermajority in the Senate. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., had announced he would not seek reelection, the fifth Democratic senator to do so, because of the hyper-partisanship that he believed prevented legislative progress in Washington. His announcement brought the number of vulnerable Democratic Senate seats to 10 and Obama's party was looking increasingly on the ropes for November, with Reid at the top of that list.

Reid is locked in a dead heat with his Republican challenger, newcomer Sharon Angle, but one Democratic official said that the "tectonic plates have shifted" in Nevada.

"At that time, talking about Harry Reid winning, it would have been a joke," the official said of Obama's previous visit to Nevada. "The fact is we're now in the hunt."

Several party officials expressed confidence that Reid is in good enough shape at this stage in the campaign and some were cautiously optimistic that the Senate majority leader will pull out the win.

That may be more because of the state of play on the Republican side than Reid's suddenly improving his own standing in his home state. Angle came out of nowhere in the closing days of the Republican primary, buoyed by massive support from the Tea Party movement, which kicked in half a million dollars for her campaign. Democrats have pointed to Angle's anti-government positions as evidence that she is outside the mainstream and said at the time of her primary victory that they were glad to run against her because it enabled them to make the campaign all about her, rather than a referendum on the unpopular Reid.