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Obama tries to rally young supporters for November elections

By Tom Cohen, CNN
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Polls show deep U.S. political divide
  • Obama delivers a pep talk at a DNC-organized event
  • Supporters submitted questions online
  • Make the choice between parties clear for voters, Obama says

Washington (CNN) -- Trying to rally young supporters three weeks before congressional elections, President Barack Obama said Tuesday night that they were the best messengers to persuade voters to choose his agenda instead of Republican policies.

"When they hear those things from you directly, that has more credibility than any television ad," Obama told a crowd at George Washington University and people watching online in an event organized by the Democratic National Committee. "You are the most powerful messengers possible. And that's how democracy ultimately should work."

Billed as a town hall-style meeting, the event was more of a pep talk as Obama fielded unchallenging questions with answers that drew from his campaign stump speech of recent weeks.

The questions from people in the audience and submitted by Facebook, Twitter and Skype reflected frustration among supporters over an angry electorate that appears poised to hand the Democrats losses in the November 2 elections.

Obama provided campaigning tips on how to frame the debate, telling listeners to make clear the choice facing voters. Republicans are counting on voter fear and anxiety over continuing high unemployment to spur a backlash against Democrats who control both chambers of Congress and the White House, he said.

"We have to make sure that we are delivering a choice to people, and so the most effective message is to say that this is what Democrats stand for," Obama said, listing issues as extending Bush-era tax cuts for families making up to $250,000 a year, giving tax breaks for companies that create jobs at home instead of shipping them overseas, investing in education, and helping workers compete for jobs in the 21st century.

"What the other side stands for are the same failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place," he said of tax cuts and deregulation that he blamed for the recession and financial crisis that started in the Bush administration.

"So when this election is posed as a choice, then I think ... sort of the light bulb goes on; 'Oh, yeah, now I remember, that didn't work,' " Obama said.

Talk to your friends, relatives, fellow students and work colleagues about the issues, tailoring your message to their situation, he advised when asked how to spread his message.

If it's your grandparents or aunt and uncle, talk about how health care reform will keep Medicare solvent and close the "doughnut hole" in prescription drug coverage, he said.

Make sure fellow students understand that Obama administration policies have expanded student loans and offer tax breaks to people who complete four years of college, the president added.

"You want to speak to people in terms of what it is that they're going through right now in their lives," he said. "And I think that across the board, if they see what the choice is, then I think that we'll do very well."

When the last questioner asked about friends who can't find jobs and face other problems, Obama tried to reassure everyone that the nation has come through tougher times than these, and would do so again with their help.

"Nobody is promising us that this experiment of ours in democracy is going to be easy, but what we know is, is if we work hard, if we're unified, if we're respectful of one another, if we stay focused on not just the short term but on the next generation, that we can solve our problems," he said.

Speaking directly to his young supporters, Obama said: "What makes me confident is all of you."

"You guys give me hope, but I really need you to get out on November 2," he said. "If all of you vote, I promise we're going to do just great."