Obama makes populist economic pitch, slams Congress in Denver speech

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DENVER -- After a night hanging out in LoDo, President Obama took to a stage in Cheesman Park Wednesday morning and looked to recapture the populist message that worked so well for him in 2008 and 2012.

Introduced by Alex Dooley, a young woman who wrote to the White House about how her boss gave her a raise following Obama's State of the Union call for a minimum wage hike and one of five such letter writers to dine with the president Tuesday night at the Wazee Supper Club, Obama took the stage in a shirt and tie with the sleeves rolled up.

After a few humorous asides about his night out in Denver -- "Don't ask Gov. Hickenlooper who won at pool," Obama joked -- the president recapped the stories he heard from Alex and his four other dinner guests.

"When I look at Alex, I see myself in them," Obama said. "I think about what it was like for me to finance college, I think about what it was like to pay childcare costs. Your stories are ours."

With his own approval rating stuck in the 40s and the headlines dominated by multiple crises, from the Mexican border to the Middle East, Obama attempted to remind voters of the progress his administration has made and economic turnaround it's led -- reprising his populist 2012 pitch for 2014 to boost embattled Democrats like Colorado Sen. Mark Udall in the November midterm elections.

"As screwed up as Washington is, I want people to understand there's still progress to be made," Obama said. "Today our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs."

Obama pointed to action his administration has taken to cut deficits, reform the country's tax code and to extend health care to millions of previously uninsured Americans; and he noted that more jobs have been created in the first six months of 2014 than in any year since 1999.

"We have come farther and recovered faster than almost any advanced nation on Earth," Obama said. "We know we've still got a long way to go.

"More jobs have been created in the first half of this year since 1999, but many families barely earn what they earned in the nineties. Too much improvement goes to the folks at the top, and not enough of it is making a difference in the lives of regular Americans."

As he has since his State of the Union address in January, Obama positioned himself as a president of action who's done waiting for a do-nothing Congress.

"These days, basic common sense ideas cannot get through Congress," he said. "They've said no to raising the minimum wage. They've said no to equal pay so women can get paid the same as men. They've said no to unemployment insurance for working Americans. Congress just said no to fixing our broken immigration system.

"If Congress won't act, I will."

Republicans dismissed Obama's speech as "more of the same."

“Try as he may, Coloradans aren’t buying President Obama’s tired talking points," said Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call. "The fact is that most Coloradans do not feel that they are doing better after six years of President Obama and Sen. Udall in office. Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans have lost their health care plans and family doctors, household income remains low and hardworking families are struggling just to get by."

A few hundred Democratic supporters attended the address in Cheesman Park, just east of the Greek columned pavilion up against the west gate of the Denver Botanic Garden.

Following the speech, Obama headed to the Westin hotel downtown for a fundraiser to benefit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Udall's campaign.

Udall, who has been criticized for avoiding Obama since announcing he'd be unable to attend the speech, decided early Wednesday morning not to fly back for the fundraiser because the Senate had to vote to confirm the president's nominee to be secretary of the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, San Antonio, Tex. Mayor Julian Castro.

"The only difference between President Obama's campaign speech today and every other one he has given was that Sen. Udall wasn't standing by his side," said Alex Siciliano, the spokesman for Congressman Cory Gardner, Udall's Republican challenger.

"Sen. Udall has been more than willing to follow the President on everything from healthcare and gun control to energy and out-of-control government spending. Make no mistake about it, a vote for Senator Udall is a vote to reinforce President Obama's old and tired policies."

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, Jack Finlaw, Hickenlooper's general counsel, and Colorado House Majority Leader Dickie Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, were among the few hundred people who attended the Cheesman Park speech.

Following the fundraiser, Obama will depart Denver early Wednesday afternoon and fly to Dallas, where he will meet Gov. Rick Perry ahead of another Democratic fundraiser to discuss the pressing humanitarian crisis on the state's border with Mexico where immigrants from Central America are streaming across.

Perry has criticized Obama for failing to deal with the crisis, even suggesting that his administration might be "in on it" -- tacitly encouraging the illegal border crossings -- and urged the president to tour the border with him, something the White House has refused to do, not wanting to give Perry his desired photo op.

Earlier Tuesday, Democratic Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar, whose district sits along the U.S.-Mexico border, criticized Obama for not going to the border, taking issue with the president's Tuesday night bar-hopping in Denver.

"If he had time, with all due respect, to have a beer and play pool like he did in Colorado last night, then I think after the fundraisers he should make time to go down there," Cuellar said in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.



  • dapandico

    When was the last Harry Reid scheduled a vote? Still waiting for a vote on the 2012 pass it now jobs bill.

  • Anonymous

    “As screwed up as Washington is, I want people to understand there’s still progress to be made,” Obama said. … “We’re shooting for nothing less than 100% screwed up, that’s change you can count on. “

    • Anonymous

      Is that for Bush’s blood on his hands of 1 million Iraqi collateral damage? Or for declaring war without congress approval (Bush) or tanking economy for the new incoming president, because for Republicans can only mangle and cause chaos in government? Seems like Congress likes the hefty paychecks, maybe return some of that because you hate Government so much, right? On the dole and biting the hand that feeds you. Short attention span theater at best.

      • Masked Crusader

        1 million? Seriously? It’s not even close to 1 million. Tanking economy for new president? Classic Liberal response. Point at the guy prior to Obama. Let’s ignore his 6 years of accomplishing nothing.

      • Codswallop Hogwash

        You are so ignorant.
        Bush had an extremely difficult choice. He could do nothing, and hope and pray like a Democrat that nothing more would happen.
        Or, he could after Moslem extremists and give them a black eye. That is what he did, and we have not had another attack on this country since.
        That would not have been the case if we had not gone into the Middle East and taught them a lesson.
        It was never about staying there, it was all about a show of force.

      • Just another Sunday night

        Still blaming Bush… I am not going to say Bush was perfect but he is way better then the useless piece we have now. He had 6 years to fix what Bush messed up, but instead he put the country and the world in an even worse position. Multiple scandals, with another on the way, the economy is trash, people are losing jobs and their health insurance, the infrastructure is falling apart, illegals are pouring across the border and the list goes on. If republicans can’t take over the Senate in November this country is finished. Question is where does one go anymore? Answer is pretty much nowhere. This is on a global scale a “one world” system which is exactly what Buck Ofama wants. We the people of this country, who still care about it need to take action now. That means coming together with a single cause that’s bigger then anyone person. It will take many but it can be done, this country can become again what it once was.

  • Fast45

    Obama: “Just you wait … If you haven’t liked my liberal, elitist, condescending messages … Hillary will make you all wish that I could serve more terms!”

  • annpirie

    I wonder in which Hickenlooper establishment this fund-raising luncheon is. All these tax dollars he spent in Hickenlooper’s (not) businesses should have gone to non-profits.

  • Dick Peabody

    Obama is mentally ill. He definitely is a Narcissistic Personality Disorder as defined by the DSM IV criteria but he also appears completely delusional and may have a severe thought disorder. In any case, these people who adore him seem as deranged as those who are smitten with Charles Manson or Ted Bundy.

  • Brenn

    How sad. His own teammates saying “uhhreally bro!?” case closed, might a s well put up vacancy signs all along the boarder while he’s visiting Texas.

  • jeff

    Mr Obama, you are blaming congress for your mistakes? May I remind you sir, that you REFUSE to work well with others, and have FAILED completely to work well with others. You CHOOSE to be arrogant and act like a spoiled child when you do not get your way. You should have been spanked a LONG time ago. Call me if you dare, I do not believe you will be able to keep your temper in check to resolve anything, so never mind. I am taking my basketball and going home. No it is not your basketball

  • Anonymous

    Since this wasn’t a public event, shouldn’t Udall and the DNC pay for this trip, not the taxpayers? Once again King Obummer and his minions are skirting the law and telling us to do as they say, not as they do.

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