With less than two weeks until Election Day, Obama chose to highlight two issues that have bedeviled him during his presidency: the debt, which has soared past $16 trillion on his watch, and immigration legislation, which never got off the launching pad over the past three years. Both are politically significant, with the debt a concern among independent voters and immigration important to the Hispanics who could decide whether Obama carries swing states such as Colorado and Nevada.
The interview, conducted Tuesday with the editor and publisher of the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa, also marked an unusual moment in the president’s dealings with the press.
Obama had initially insisted that the exchange, which he conducted by phone from a stop in Florida, be off the record. Then on Wednesday, his campaign abruptly decided to release a transcript after the newspaper’s editor, Rick Green, wrote a blog post calling the interview terms a “disservice” to voters. Obama is seeking the influential paper’s endorsement.
The transcript gave a surprising glimpse of Obama as political pundit, gaming out timetables and calculations for his dealings with Capitol Hill Republicans. He predicted, for instance, that an expectedly poor showing by Republican challenger Mitt Romney among Hispanics would put pressure on GOP lawmakers to ease their opposition to an immigration overhaul that offers a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt,” Obama said at one point. “Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”
With polls in battleground states showing the race tightening to a virtual dead heat, Obama appears to be shifting away from a strategy dominated by attacks on his opponent to one that includes a rationale for skeptical voters to send him back to the White House for another four years.
The Obama campaign is distributing glossy brochures that repackage his proposals to hire more teachers, promote manufacturing and raise taxes on the wealthy as “The New Economic Patriotism: A Plan for Jobs & Middle-Class Security.”
Aides said the push to define the president’s second term also includes direct mail and a new, 60-second TV ad featuring Obama looking into the camera and laying out his views on manufacturing, energy and other issues. “Read my plan,” he says.