Exclusive: President Obama Pre-Mid Term Election Interview

Office of the Press Secretary
Internal Transcript October 26, 2010RADIO INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT WITH APRIL RYAN Via Telephone Call – 3:15 P.M. EDT

Q President Obama, thanks for joining us on the eve of November 2nd’s historic elections. History shows that the tide is supposed to be for the other guy during the midterms. And how do you feel about that, especially as your efforts to get the out the base vote is historic all into itself?

We’re hearing that you will have at least more base voters than you’ve had at least in the past 12 years. What are your thoughts about that as history normally goes against you during the midterms, but you’re making historic moves right now yourself?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, it’s true that historically sitting Presidents, their party loses some seats during the midterms. That’s been a pattern. But these aren’t ordinary times.

We’re going through a recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And I think it is very important for us to understand that this election represents a choice between going back to the policies that got us into this mess in the first place, and supporting the policies that I’ve implemented, working with a Democratic Congress, to help get us out of this mess.

So just to use one example, the main Republican idea for growing the economy is to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, millionaires and billionaires. It would cost $700 billion. And part of the way they want to pay for it is to cut education spending by 20 percent.

Now, we’ve struggled over the last two years to make sure that we are putting billions of dollars — new money into Pell Grants and into college scholarships and student loan programs so that young people have an opportunity to get an education because that’s what they’re going to need if they’re going to compete in this new global economy. That is a core choice in terms of what your priorities are.

And whether it’s them wanting to repeal the health care laws that we put into place to make sure that insurance companies have to treat you fairly and you can get affordable insurance; whether it’s them wanting to roll back financial reform that we worked to pass because we don’t want to see any more taxpayer-funded bailouts — these are the kinds of choices that are coming up in this election.

And I believe that if folks who worked so hard in 2008 to get me elected understand that this election is just as important as 2008 because it’s going to determine how well I can move my agenda forward over the next two years, I think we’ll have good turnout. And that’s what I’m really hoping for.

Q I talked to your senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, recently. And she talked about things that were at stake, like the black farmers, as well as health care — repealing — the Republicans wanting to repeal health care reform.

Could you talk to me about what’s at stake, including those issues?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I just gave you one example, which is education. Health care is another. You mentioned the Pigford settlement that we have tried to broker to make sure that African American farmers who were discriminated against in the past in agricultural programs get a settlement. It’s a fair settlement, but it’s got to be funded by Congress. And frankly, it’s going to be tougher for us to be able to get that done if, in fact, we don’t have strong support from Congress.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities — we’ve put $850 million into those. But that money is not locked in. It could be taken away.

So on each of these issues, the question is going to be whether or not we prioritize investments in people, investments in our infrastructure, investments in economic growth, or are we going back to the policies of cutting taxes, cutting regulations, and then cutting middle-class families to fend for themselves.

And I think the choice should be clear. And folks who turned out in 2008, this is just as important an election, and I need everybody to make sure they’re going to the polls on November 2nd. And if you’ve got early vote in your state, you should go out even sooner, cast your ballot today or cast your ballot this weekend, to make sure that your voice is heard.

Q It’s ironic — you talked about the success of your election to President and the historic nature of it. And I’m in Greensboro, North Carolina — I just toured the Civil Rights Museum, the Woolworth Lunch Counter Exhibit. And the exhibit ends with you. And I couldn’t help but think about the fact that this is historic, and there is history because so many young people — your base — did not understand issues of suffrage. And then you have the issue of African Americans, historically, who fought for the right to vote. Could you speak to that, to all of that — your base, the young vote, the youth vote, the women’s vote, as well as the black vote, historically — in historic perspective?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, 2008 was an historic election because people participated at record levels. But that’s how it’s got to be all the time. I mean, what I try to explain to people is that bringing about change in this country, whether it was the civil rights movement, the movement for women’s rights, workers’ rights, these have all happened over the course of years. And the question is, do you sustain a movement for change.

Another way of putting it is you’ve got to play the whole game and we’ve just finished the first quarter. And if you’re only playing one quarter, even if you’ve got a lead in that first quarter, you could end up losing the game. Well, we’ve got — we’ve got three more quarters to play. And the only way we’re going to win them is if people make their voices heard.

Q Well, you know, you talk about this change that we are still involved in, this effort to move forward. And passions are running hot. And were you able to read or hear about what happened in Rhode Island, the statements that were made about you?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you know, I saw that. I mean, that’s not a big deal. Obviously, a candidate for governor there was upset that I hadn’t explicitly endorsed him, and made a comment off the cuff –

Q Okay, and so –

THE PRESIDENT: And so one of the things you learn, April, in politics is you don’t worry about people saying stuff about you. As long as you know that you are focused on doing what’s right for people, then that’s your main priority.

Q And moving forward, do you think November 2nd that there will be a win in the House and/or Senate? Or what do you think will happen? Because I’ve been polling some people in the House, and they’re saying they’re expecting a bump — it’s tight, but they’re expecting a bump up by a couple of Democratic wins, so they’re expecting to keep the House.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, here’s my expectation — is that if we turn out at the levels that we turned out in 2008, we’ll win. It’s pretty straightforward. And so we don’t have to prognosticate. We don’t have to predict. We don’t have to get a crystal ball. Our fate is in our own hands.

And that’s why everybody who is listening to your program, I am hopeful that if you haven’t already early voted, go out there and early vote. If you don’t have early vote, then turn out on November 2nd. If you don’t know where to vote, you can get on a website called raiseyourvote.com and get that information.

But there are no excuses here. We can continue to make progress putting people back to work, the investments we’ve made in blighted neighborhoods, the need to invest in infrastructure and putting people back to work, making sure that we continue investing in education and school reform and school construction, making sure that our young people are getting the college help that they need. All those things are contingent on whether people turn out to vote or not.

So, April, I just want, as I sign off, to say to everybody, don’t — just because I’m not on the ballot, don’t assume that this election is not important. This is very important. And it’s going to help determine how well we can move over the next couple of years.

Q Mr. President, thank you so very much. I know you’re busy, but thanks for taking time out.

THE PRESIDENT: Great to talk to you. Thank you very much. Bye-bye.

Q Take care. Bye-bye.

END 3:24 P.M. EDT

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