President Obama heard from voters in Minnesota who were anxious about stagnant incomes, education costs, gun control and the gaps in pay between men and women.
Obama said in Minneapolis that even though the nation has recovered from the worst recession in more than seven years a lot of people were still struggling.
He expressed sympathy with those whose wages have not kept pace with prices and those seeking jobs as he sought to reassure them that the economy was improving.
“The one thing that I always remind people of is, on just about every economic measure, we are significantly better off than we were when I came into office,” Obama said.
This is the message Obama wants to drive home amidst some dissatisfaction with his handling of the economy which is already weighing on Democratic congressional candidates in the elections to be held in November.
The Republicans are working to gain at least six seats in the Senate that they need to reach a majority there.
The fact that U.S. recovery was weak was underscored by the Thursday government report that the GDP contracted at a rate of 2.9 percent in the year’s first quarter. This is its worst performance since the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slashed 2.31 points to 1957.22 at the close in New York, paring an earlier drop of as much as 0.8 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 21.38 points to 16,846.13.
In Minnesota, the president is highlighting a “Day in the Life” story of a middle-income voter. The goal is to draw a contrast between Democrats and Republicans said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president.
Obama had lunch Friday at a pub in Minneapolis with Rebekah Erler of St. Anthony, Minnesota, and she joined him at a town-hall meeting.
Erler is the lady who wrote to Obama in March about the cost of living and other financial struggles of the middle class. Erler is an accountant while her husband is a carpenter. Her letter and Obama’s response are in a You Tube video released by the White House on Thursday.
“I know staying silent about what you see and what needs changing never makes any difference, so I’m writing you to let you know what it’s like for us in the middle of the country and I hope you will listen,” Erler said in the letter.
They talked over lunch about the cost of day-care and food and mortgages.
“I got the chance to start a conversation about what a lot of the people I know are going through,” she said, describing Obama as amazing and personable.
Obama also is highlighting Minnesota’s move to raise the state minimum wage. The rate is expected to gradually increase to $9.50 per hour by 2016 and then would be indexed to inflation.
Obama wants Congress to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
Obama said that the 2014 elections are critical for the middle class such as Erler, and that the struggles of the middle class need attention from Washington.
“We talk about phony scandals, we talk about Benghazi, we talk about polls and we talk about the Tea Party. We don’t talk about her,” he said, referring to Erler. “The other side has nothing to offer except cynicism and fear and frustration.”