WASHINGTON — President Obama’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage may not be popular with Republicans in Congress, but he’s betting it will be with his real target, the Democratic voters he hopes to turn out in the congressional elections later this year.
On Wednesday, Obama is taking that message to Michigan and Illinois, two states with 2014 Senate races.
In Michigan, where the retirement of Democratic Sen. Carl Levin has fueled GOP hopes of picking up a seat, Obama plans to deliver an economic message that features a state hero.
Henry Ford helped create a thriving American middle class by doubling his workers’ wages in 1914, a White House official said in previewing Obama’s message. Ford said that it would be good for business if his workers could afford to buy the cars they were helping to build, an idea Democrat love to repeat. Obama plans to conjure the Ford memory for the crowd at the University of Michigan. Rep. Gary Peters, the likely Democratic nominee for Levin's Senate seat, is expected to join Obama for the event.
But while Obama’s call to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is the stated focus of the day, Obama’s real message will swing wider than that, encompassing another thing congressional Republicans don’t like — his healthcare reform law.
Ann Arbor is Obama’s first scheduled appearance since he announced that more than 7.1 million people had signed up for health insurance during the open-enrollment period that closed on Monday.
As the president touts the benefits for uninsured Americans who now have coverage, his White House is making crystal clear where the political message is going from here.
“Those who run against it, who run on repeal and offer nothing in return but the old status quo, are going to have some explaining to do to those millions of Americans who now have the security of affordable health insurance,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.
Republicans say they invite the comparison.
“Some Democrats are taking a victory lap on Obamacare despite rate increases and costs hitting employers,” Republican National Committee press secretary Kristen Kukowski said in an email.
“Let us know if you hear any Dems running in 2014 states say ‘mission accomplished,’ ” she wrote. “We’re in the market for the video.”
For his part, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who is up for reelection this year, was more than happy to appear with Obama for the White House Rose Garden announcement on Tuesday. Obama singled out Durbin, along with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, for special thanks.
“We could not have done it without them,” Obama said, “and they should be proud of what they’ve done.”
Obama will have a chance to repeat that message later on Wednesday when he travels to Chicago to appear at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.