Likening the struggles of the unemployed to the civil-rights movement, President Obama called on the Congressional Black Caucus to put aside differences and fall in line behind his jobs proposal during a speech Saturday at the CBC Foundation’s annual awards dinner in Washington.

“I expect all of you to march with me and press on,” Obama told the audience. “Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC.”

The president has come under mounting criticism from black members of Congress in recent months over his handling of the unemployment crisis. The black unemployment rate has ticked up to 15.9 percent on Obama’s watch, up from 11.5 percent when he took office, and blacks have also been hit hard by the housing market collapse

Obama’s approval numbers among African Americans have also taken a sharp dive in recent polls. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll found 58 percent of blacks say they have “strongly favorable” views of the president, down from 83 percent just five months ago.

The Post’s Peter Wallsten reports that the Obama re-election campaign is developing an aggressive new program, dubbed “Operation Vote,” to expand support from ethnic minority groups and other traditional Democratic voters as his team studies an increasingly narrow path to victory in next year’s reelection effort.


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