President Obama on Wednesday continued to cast his jobs bill as the right answer for constituency groups important to his reelection, appealing to Latinos to pressure Congress to pass the bill even if it means breaking it up into pieces.
This time, the appeal went to people invited in for a White House Forum on American Latino Heritage. But it was the same plea the president has made since Labor Day to other key parts of the coalition that put him in the Oval Office in 2008.
In the 37 days since he unveiled the jobs bill in a speech to a joint session of Congress, the president has spoken to three Hispanic groups and two labor audiences as well as addressing the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
The pitch has changed little, tweaked only by events such as Tuesday evening’s rejection of the bill by the Senate. The president said he knows people expect him to “move on” after the defeat. “But,” he said, “I've got news for them: Not this time, not with so many Americans out of work, not with so many folks in your communities hurting.”
He said he will “not take 'no' for an answer. We will keep organizing and we will keep pressuring and we will keep voting until this Congress finally meets its responsibilities and actually does something to put people back to work and improve the economy.” Contending that the bill would help 25 million Latinos, he said he now sees the debate as being “about fairness and who we are as a country.”
As he did with labor, he appealed for help. “I need you to e-mail and tweet and fax and write letters and get on the phone, meet face to face. Remind members of Congress who they work for. Remind them what's at stake here,” he said.
Latinos were a key part of Obama’s election in 2008, supporting him by more than a two-to-one margin, 67 percent to 31 percent. But in September, his support among Hispanics dipped below 50 percent for the first time, an ominous sign for his campaign for a second term. Gallup had 48 percent of Hispanics approving of the job he has done, with 37 percent disapproving. In further bad news for the president’s standing, Hispanic unemployment remains at 11.3 percent.
In his remarks on Wednesday, the president did not hide from the bad news, acknowledging that “times are especially tough right now” for Hispanics. “The Latino community knows this better than most,” he said. “The unemployment rate among Latinos is one of the highest in the country. And right now, too many families are struggling just to get by. And that's not right.”
But he insisted he has delivered in other ways for Latinos, particularly in his appointments.