Obama seeks to shore up black support in jobs push

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 24, 2011 10:58 PM
Obama seeks to shore up black support in jobs push

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama urged black leaders on Saturday to "stop complaining" and help him push his jobs plan through the U.S. Congress, as he sought to bolster support in the black community amid concern over high unemployment

In an impassioned speech to an awards banquet of the Congressional Black Caucus, Obama likened his efforts to win approval of his $447 billion jobs package to civil rights struggles of the 1960s and exhorted his audience to "march with me and press on."

Facing a tough 2012 re-election fight, Obama sought to shore up once-unquestioned support in the black community where opinion polls show waning voter enthusiasm for his policies while some politicians have criticized him for not focusing enough on black unemployment.

Obama, America's first black president, acknowledged the frustration and appealed to his listeners to "keep the faith."

"I'm going to press on for jobs," Obama said to wild cheers. "Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying. We are going to press on. We've got work to do."

In the latest stop on his "pass this bill" tour, the Democratic president also seized the chance to keep pressure on Republicans over his jobs plan and taunt them for not embracing a package that includes tax cuts to spur company hiring.

Republicans have given Obama's jobs plan a cool reception and oppose tax hikes on wealthier Americans that would pay for it, but have voiced a willingness to consider some of his ideas.

Obama said he had spoken to former President Bill Clinton, who he played golf with earlier on Saturday, about his proposal to let expire tax cuts for richer Americans enacted under Republican President George W. Bush and revert to the rates that prevailed during Clinton's term.

"It turned out we had a lot of jobs (during Clinton's time)," Obama said.

Obama's re-election hopes may hinge on his ability to revive the stagnant U.S. economy and reduce 9.1 percent unemployment.

Even as Obama's overall poll numbers have declined, cracks have begun to show in his support among blacks, a key constituency that helped propel him to victory in the 2008 presidential election.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll earlier this week showed that 58 percent of blacks held "strongly favorable" views of him, down from 83 percent five months ago. That coincides with a black unemployment rate that has ticked up to close to 16 percent on Obama's watch.

(Editing by Will Dunham)