Obama stumps in Oregon, kicking off 4-day swing through blue states

As the midterm election races headed into the homestretch, President Obama focused on energizing groups that traditionally support Democrats -- especially women.
By Philip Rucker and Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 21, 2010; 2:11 AM

PORTLAND, ORE. - President Obama implored Democrats here Wednesday evening to "defy the conventional wisdom" in the midterm elections less than two weeks away, kicking off a furious last-ditch campaign swing through western battleground states.

"You're going to be fired up," Obama told a raucous crowd here at a rally for his party's gubernatorial candidate, John Kitzhaber. "Because in less than two weeks -- in less than two weeks, you can set the direction of this state and this country not just for the next two years, not for the next four years, not just for the next 10 years, for the next 20 years. Just like you did in 2008, you can defy the conventional wisdom. Yes, you can! Yes, you can!"

During his presidential campaign two years ago, Obama drew more than 60,000 people to a rally at a riverfront park here. On Wednesday, an estimated 8,400 showed up at a convention center hall to see him. The president, admittedly hoarse and nursing a cold, sought to rekindle the magic that propelled his candidacy by saying the midterm elections are just one more step in a "movement for change."

"This election is not about anger, it's not about fear," Obama said. "It's about a choice, and the stakes couldn't be higher."

The president exhorted the crowd: "Don't let anybody tell you this fight isn't worth it. Don't let anybody tell you you're not making a difference."

Obama drew his biggest applause when he delivered now-familiar lines about Republicans driving the economy into the ditch before he took office and warning that if they assume control of Congress they would pursue the same policies.

"The basis of their campaign is amnesia," Obama said, adding: "There are no surprises here - unless you're forgetting, unless you're suffering from amnesia."

That Obama traveled to a reliably Democratic state in the final throes of the campaign is a sign of how troubled Democrats are about their electoral prospects. Kitzhaber, a former physician who served two terms as governor between 1995 and 2003, is seeking a return to the office this year. But polls show he is running a dead heat with Republican Chris Dudley, who retired from the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers in 2003.

"I know you've got a race where both candidates are talking about change, but there's only one candidate who's actually delivered change," Obama said. "Here is a guy who's already done the job and done it well."

The Portland stump speech kicked off a four-day, five-state swing through the West, where he will focus on shoring up two gubernatorial races and a set of important Senate contests.

The trip - his longest of the midterm season - will end in Minnesota, where he will raise money for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"The message is going to be similar to the message we've been delivering," David Axelrod, Obama's senior adviser, told reporters Tuesday at the White House. "Our mission is to focus people on the choice that is in front of them."

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