SANTA MONICA, Calif. — President Barack Obama is all in with his economic pitch. The American public is not. In the next 27 days, either the public or the president is going to get the message.
In a midterm campaign strategy fraught with risk, the White House is betting that Obama's tight embrace of the economic recovery and populist proposals for gender pay equity and a higher minimum wage will galvanize his core supporters and persuade fence-sitting independents to help Democrats retain narrow control of the Senate in November.
Addressing young entrepreneurs Thursday at a startup center in California, Obama highlighted his economic record for the third time in eight days.
"A lot of you entered into the work force during the worst financial crisis and then the worst recession since the Great Depression," he told the gathering of mostly millennials, born after 1980. "You are coming out of this recession with the best educated, most diverse, most digitally fluent generation in American history."
While noting that he's not on the ballot in this election, Obama has become fond of saying his policies are at stake. The line has prompted a reflexive flinch from Democrats who are trying to fend off a concerted Republican campaign to link Democratic opponents to the president.
For Democrats, the problem is not Obama's message; it's the pitchman. "The messenger is not the most popular guy on the planet right now," said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.
Public opinion polls show substantial support for Obama's proposals. But on the economic issues he's most associated with — the fitful recovery from the Great Recession and his health care law — the American public isn't with him.