Obama: 'Tough Votes' Cast in Congress Are 'Courageous' While Putting 'Congressional Careers at Risk'

From Sunlen Miller: Three weeks before his party could take a tough hit in the voting booths, President Obama said this evening that a “pleasant surprise” of his job is seeing members of Congress cast tough votes over the past 20 months even though it might lead to their congressional demise. “There are a lot of folks who took some really tough votes over the last 20 months knowing that it was bad for them politically, who voted for health care reform even though the polls said this would cause them problems in the next election, who voted for financial regulatory reform even though they knew that by supporting it it would impact big money pouring in and directing negative ads towards them,” the president said during a webcast town hall from The George Washington University. "And they did it anyway. And that was risky for them.” The president highlighted some of those members who cast votes that could put their congressional careers at risk. ‘There have been a surprising number of folks who have been willing to stand up,” Obama said mentioning specifically by name Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Ala., Rep. John Boccieri, D-Ohio, Betsy Markey, D-Colo. “There have just been some folks who really stood up knowing that the might be putting their congressional careers at risk. And that’s been a pleasant surprise.” The president noted that while it is “fashionable” to get down on Congress, but many members of Congress have been “courageous” over the last 20 months. The question came during Obama’s “Commit to Vote” town hall at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., this evening, one of many events this week and lead up to Election Day the president will have in order to get out the youth h vote. The president said in front of a crowd of 125 supporters in the audience at GW that the youth vote is imperative to the Democrats results this year. “Hope defeats fear and that manifests itself in you guys committing to vote,” Obama said. “November 2nd matters. If you were excited in 2008, that was the begging of the journey, not the end of the journey. Or to use a sports metaphor, we just finished the first quarter; we’ve got a whole lot more work to do.” The president said if young voters can “muster and sustain that same effort and energy” as they had in 2008 then he is “confident that we will do well in the election. We will win all across the country and the polls bear that out.” The president noted that Democrats don’t have the same excitement and energy that Republicans do right now, making his plea an us-against-them argument. “Frankly, and I’m just going to be blunt, some on our side have said to themselves, ‘Well, you know what, everything that we thought was going to happen hasn’t happened immediately in 20 months and so maybe we don’t have the same enthusiasm and excitement that we had the first time around,’” Obama said, adding that it’s up to young voters to come out and prove them wrong. “If all of you vote, I promise you we’re going to do just great.” The president fielded questions from email, Twitter, the audience and, for the first time, Skype. And he quipped that all these tech-savvy forms of communication are “things that Malia and Sasha understand” that he’s still “trying to sort out.” The very first question, sent in via email, gave the president a chance to blast third party groups running political ads with funds from undisclosed source, when the questioner asked how best citizens can work to mitigate the effect of corporate money in elections. “We don’t know if they are being run by banks, or frustrated by some of our financial positions, we don’t know if they are being funded by foreign corporations, because they are not disclosed,” Obama said, adding that this poses a “huge problem.” Obama noted that these groups have “every right under the First Amendment” to let their voices be heard. But knowing the identity of who is running the ads would help voters interpret them. “I think all of us would agree that it would make a difference if you were watching these ads, that you found out that, well, Americans for Prosperity are actually bankrolled by a bunch of very wealthy special interests that are opposed to legislation that you support," he said. "That might have an influence on how you might interpret that ad.” The president said that most ads -– especially in competitive congressional districts -- the negative ads turn into “background noise.” “It just must be non-stop,” he quipped, “so at a certain point people must tune that out.” The president said that people are the most “powerful messengers possible,” so people must get out and spread the truth. All the questions tonight were friendly, sent in by supporters and volunteers. One questioner wanted to know how they can communicate that Obama’s campaign message was not “yes we can ... in 21 months,” but that change takes longer. “Well that’s sort of a softball,” the president even noted. The questions taken from Facebook and Twitter were chosen by the DNC to be representative of all the questions submitted, the DNC says, selected in advance so they could be integrated into the technology of the event. -- Sunlen Miller

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