In tour, Obama tries to smash Democratic lethargy
President Barack Obama on Tuesday told lethargic Democrats dreading a mid-term election mauling to "buck up," seeking to recreate the energy and heady aura of his 2008 White House race.
On a four-leg swing state tour, Obama skipped from a humble backyard to a full-bore campaign rally, showing increasing irritation with wavering supporters, and mounting stomach for the fight, five weeks before polling day.
"It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this mid-term election," said Obama in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine released Tuesday.
"We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up. Bringing about change is hard.
"But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."
Obama's barnstorming was designed to hammer Republicans desperate to roadblock his agenda, connect with heartland Americans anxious over the sluggish recovery and fire up the legions of young voters that helped him to the White House.
But he faces a tough task in rekindling the spirit of 2008, with his approval ratings dragging in the mid-40s as wars, economic woes and high unemployment render the hopeful euphoria of the campaign a mere memory.
Earlier in a candid moment in a farming community in western new Mexico, Obama spoke openly about his Christian faith, in comments lent extra weight by recent polls that show many Americans wrongly believe he is a Muslim.
"I am a Christian by choice," Obama said, in answer to a question from a woman who asked him about his faith.
Obama came to Christianity late in life but was said it was the teachings of Jesus Christ that inspired "the kind of life I would want to lead."
"I think, also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the kind of humility we all have to have as human beings."
A Time magazine poll in August found that 24 percent of respondents wrongly said Obama is a Muslim. Some 18 percent said the same in a study from the non-partisan Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Obama's ideological foes, including conservative radio talk show hosts have fanned speculation about his religion, seeking to damage the president politically in a country where faith is intertwined with politics.
Pollsters who predict that Democrats will suffer heavy losses in November 2 congressional elections point to an "enthusiasm gap" between dismayed Democrats and enraged Republicans and conservatives spoiling to give Obama a bloody nose.
But Obama, who passed more major social laws than any Democratic president for decades, argued he had been forced to make compromises to get anything done, mentioning his historic health care law and financial reform.
He said voters had the choice between a Republican Party that had moved to the right of George Bush, or his administration with "admitted warts."
In a news release, Republicans however criticized Obama's tough new campaign rhetoric, telling him to "Stop Whining" and arguing after failing to motivate voters he was reduced to scolding, mocking and lecturing his base.
But Representative Mike Honda, a liberal Democrat from California, welcomed a more "straightforward" approach by Obama in highlighting accomplishments since entering the White House.
"In our party we have all kinds of voters and among them are some of the folks who just don't get all the information.
So straight talk sometimes gets their attention," Honda said on a conference call with Asian American ethnic media.
Obama opened his day in the gentle sunshine of western New Mexico, in the ranch-style backyard of Andy and Etta Cavalier, an Albuquerque couple, chatting with neighborhood folk in the farming community about the economy and education.
The president is increasingly spattering his schedule with such events in an apparent effort to counter claims he has lost touch with everyday Americans, with many yet to see the results of his economic recovery efforts.
Backyard chats also hark back to the homey and local style of politics that Obama used to build the grass roots army of supporters which swept him to the Democratic nomination and the pinnacle of power two years ago.
Just over a third of the Senate is up for grabs on November 2 congressional polls, along with all of the 435-seat House of Representatives.