MADISON, Wis. —Buck up. Stop whining. And get to work.
Clearly frustrated by Republicans' energy — and his own party's lack of enthusiasm — President Obama scolded fellow Democrats even as he rallied them Tuesday in an effort to save the party from big GOP gains in the crucial midterm elections. In the final month of campaigning, he's trying to re-energize young voters, despondent liberals and other Democrats whose excitement over his election has dissipated.
"It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines," the president declared in a Rolling Stone magazine interview. He said that supposed supporters who are "sitting on their hands complaining" are irresponsible because the consequences of Republican congressional victories could be dashed Democratic plans.
He gave an example during a backyard conversation with New Mexico voters, arguing that Republicans would reverse the progress he's made on education reform and student aid. "That's the choice that we've got in this election," Obama said, underscoring the stakes of Nov. 2.
Later, at an outdoor rally at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, the president urged thousands of students to stay as inspired and involved in this election as they were two years ago.
"We can't let this country fall backwards because the rest of us didn't care enough to fight," he said to loud applause.
It was the first of four large rallies planned for the campaign homestretch as the president tries to rekindle some of his 2008 campaign magic and fire up young supporters and others who helped elect Obama but who Democrats fear may stay home this fall. Top lieutenants Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic Party chairman Tim Kaine and Cabinet members also fanned out on other college campuses to call party foot soldiers to action.
At Penn State University in State College, Pa., Biden noted he was criticized a day earlier in New Hampshire for urging Democrats to "remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives."
"All I heard when I got here in Happy Valley was the roar of lions. Folks, it's time for us to roar," Biden said, pressing his audience to knock on doors, make phone calls and commit to vote.
With the elections looming, the White House and Democratic Party are focused primarily on trying to compel their core voters — liberals and minority groups — as well as the ideologically broad coalition that helped elect Obama in 2008 to participate in the first congressional elections of his presidency.
They have little choice.
Midterm contests largely turn on which party can get out more of its backers. And polls show that Republicans are far more enthusiastic this year partly because of tea party anger. Also, polls show Democrats can't count on independent voters who carried them to victory in consecutive national elections.