This morning, the speakers at the Painters' Union's "It's all about jobs!" rally and frozen chicken give-away defended the Obama Administration and exhorted those who had gathered outside of the old U.S. Steel site in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood to get to the polls this November. Obama "took over a mess and the only answer he's gotten from the opposition party has been no," said Painters' Union president James Williams. Ten thousand more painters would be unemployed without the stimulus bill, Williams told the crowd. Few specific mentions were made of high-profile Democratic candidates here, like Gov. Pat Quinn or Alexi Giannoulias, who is vying for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois.
For many voters (and many progressives) who backed Obama two years ago, disappointment is running high and the "enthusiasm gap" portends losses for Democrat candidates, even in Illinois, where the president remains relatively popular. Bob Simpson, the president of the Chicago chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, received a round of cheers when he asked the crowd today if they'd be door knocking this fall. But Simpson told Progress Illinois it's going to take some convincing to wake the "sleeping giant" of Democratic-leaning voters. Watch:
Some painters also saw big differences between the presidential vote and the forthcoming election. Hector Castillo said many voters would skip the election entirely while others would turn toward Republican candidates. Another Painters' Union member, Darien Moody, didn't see the same level of energy as he did two years ago. "I think most people have the view that the local doesn't mean as much as the international ... that local representatives can't do as much as the president can," he said.
Last week, we wrote about the messaging strategies the Service Employees International Union State Council (which sponsors this website) will use to try to nudge "Obama voters," who are unlikely to vote in this fall's election, toward casting ballots. Today's rally focused on firing up union members, a traditional constituency. Turning out both groups will be key for Democrats as the campaign season heats up. It will mean somehow closing the enthusiasm gap.
Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias said Tuesday at a meeting with veterans and injured Iraq War vet Tammy Duckworth that the United States should leave Afghanistan "as quickly as possible." Giannoulias added that he would not support a timeline for troop withdrawal.
Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic nominee for Illinois' U.S. Senate seat, released his latest ad for the fall campaign today. "The Choice - Ethics," as the ad is titled, is simple and to the point, featuring President Barack Obama extolling Giannoulias' commitment to ethical government. The video is below:
Obama has taken a hit in recent national polling numbers. But the president has been able to hang on to majority support among voters in Illinois, with 51 percent approving of his job performance according to a recent Tribune poll. The ad clearly seeks to remind voters that supporting Giannoulias means supporting Obama, Illinois' home state president.
State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the Democratic and Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, are tied, with each garnering 34 percent in support in a new Tribune poll of 600 voters across the state.
Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic candidate for Illinois' U.S. Senate seat, gave a speech in Chicago today focusing on fiscal policy and the federal budget. According to a write-up of the address by Crain's columnist Greg Hinz, Giannoulias said that cutting the national debt "should be our No. 1 fiscal priority when we arise out of the current recession."
Note the timing contained in that statement. As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently argued, it's not that government debt isn't a concern. Rather, Congress and the president should wait to prioritize the issue. A premature move toward fiscal austerity, before GDP rises and unemployment drops, could send the economy tumbling.
We heard similar notes from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin last week when he told the City Club of Chicago the federal government must consider "careful" spending cuts (he singled out defense and agriculture as two potential areas for cuts) after further debt-financing of unemployment aid, infrastructure projects, and education. The timing issue is worth keeping in mind as debates about the national debt, the last Bush Administration's tax cuts, and stimulus programs continue to dominate headlines.