Deep in the land of George W. Bush, President Obama swept through Texas yesterday to gather Democratic cash and votes, pounding home education as not just an economic imperative but also a political wedge.
In a state that Obama lost resoundingly to Senator John McCain two years ago, the president did the job that takes up much of his time these days: politics.
Obama raised up to $1 million for the Democratic National Committee at a hotel in Austin, where the mantra of his midterms — “Are we going to move forward, or are we going to move backwards?’’ — played well to his lunch crowd.
Later, he was the headline draw at another fund-raiser, in Dallas, to help Democrats in key Senate races nationwide.
And in between came an education speech at the University of Texas, where the screams of students prompted Obama to raise a voice even louder, combining for a raucous campaign feel.
This is Obama’s August offensive, a string of tactical, time-gobbling campaign stops to raise a bunch of money and revitalize Democratic voters. The traditional result of approaching midterm elections is that the party of the sitting president loses seats; in this case, with anti-incumbency fervor soaring, Democrats could be in for a lashing. Republicans need to gain 40 seats in the House and 10 in the Senate to take control of Capitol Hill. From coast to coast, Obama’s message at every stop is that he is governing, Republicans are obstructing, and voters have a choice.
“We have spent the last 20 months governing. They spent the last 20 months politicking,’’ Obama said of Republicans. With three months to go before the midterm election, Obama all but said “bring it on’’: “They’ve forgotten I know how to politic pretty good.’’
The ostensible purpose of the Texas day trip was education. At the University of Texas in Austin, Obama outlined his college agenda, largely a recitation of steps already taken, if perhaps overshadowed by Washington’s din. Holding the official event along with his political appearances means the White House could bill taxpayers for most of the costs of the trip.
Obama made sure to point out it was Democrats who passed a law last year that made the government the lender of all federal government loans, eliminating banks from the process and freeing up more money for student aid.
“We went to battle against the lobbyists and a minority party that was united in their support of this outrageous status quo,’’ Obama said. “And, Texas, I am here to report that we won.’’
Perry, who met Obama at the airport in Austin when the president arrived in Texas, asked Obama to deploy 1,000 troops to the border quickly and provide other law enforcement support.
He made the appeal in a letter that he handed to senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, who accompanied the president. “Drug cartels and related forces are waging war in northern Mexico,’’ Perry wrote. “Absent federal action, it’s only a matter of time before that violence affects more innocent Americans.’’
Perry, a Republican, is seeking reelection in November and is being challenged by Democrat Bill White, former mayor of Houston. Immigration and border control are among the issues in campaigns in state and federal offices. The administration sued the state of Arizona over its law cracking down on illegal immigration.
Obama “has put more assets on the border to secure the border than has ever previously been there,’’ including the 1,200 National Guard troops committed earlier this year, said Bill Burton, deputy White House press secretary.
Obama and Perry had only “a very brief conversation’’ at the airport upon the president’s arrival, Burton said.