This morning, the speakers at the Painters' Union's "It's all about jobs!" rally and frozen chicken give-away defended the Obama Administration and exhorted those who had gathered outside of the old U.S. Steel site in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood to get to the polls this November. Obama "took over a mess and the only answer he's gotten from the opposition party has been no," said Painters' Union president James Williams. Ten thousand more painters would be unemployed without the stimulus bill, Williams told the crowd. Few specific mentions were made of high-profile Democratic candidates here, like Gov. Pat Quinn or Alexi Giannoulias, who is vying for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois.
For many voters (and many progressives) who backed Obama two years ago, disappointment is running high and the "enthusiasm gap" portends losses for Democrat candidates, even in Illinois, where the president remains relatively popular. Bob Simpson, the president of the Chicago chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, received a round of cheers when he asked the crowd today if they'd be door knocking this fall. But Simpson told Progress Illinois it's going to take some convincing to wake the "sleeping giant" of Democratic-leaning voters. Watch:
Some painters also saw big differences between the presidential vote and the forthcoming election. Hector Castillo said many voters would skip the election entirely while others would turn toward Republican candidates. Another Painters' Union member, Darien Moody, didn't see the same level of energy as he did two years ago. "I think most people have the view that the local doesn't mean as much as the international ... that local representatives can't do as much as the president can," he said.
Last week, we wrote about the messaging strategies the Service Employees International Union State Council (which sponsors this website) will use to try to nudge "Obama voters," who are unlikely to vote in this fall's election, toward casting ballots. Today's rally focused on firing up union members, a traditional constituency. Turning out both groups will be key for Democrats as the campaign season heats up. It will mean somehow closing the enthusiasm gap.