Voters unsure of Obama’s agenda

President’s second-term plans vague

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Ask voters to describe what a second Obama term would look like, and even some of the president’s most ardent supporters have a hard time painting a picture.

“I don’t know,” said Cynthia Malbon of Manchester. “I’m skeptical that anything much is going to happen. It’s probably going to be worse next time around.”

Mrs. Malbon was attending a rally with the president Thursday in Manchester, as President Obama tried to answer criticism from Republican nominee Mitt Romney — highlighted again in the GOP challenger’s first rally after Tuesday evening’s debate — that the president lacks an agenda for a second term. The president came to New Hampshire for the first time since Sept. 7 to rally supporters as polls show the race tightening in this small but hotly contested swing state.

A Suffolk/7News poll on Monday showed the candidates tied at 47 percent. Two weeks ago, Mr. Obama was leading the Republican by an average of 6 percentage points in the Granite State.

The Suffolk poll found that voters give the edge to Mr. Romney in fixing the economy, 45 percent to 42 percent, a possible indication that people don’t have a good idea where Mr. Obama intends to lead the nation in a second term.

The president’s campaign team says his agenda for a second term includes hiring 100,000 more teachers, boosting domestic energy production, creating more manufacturing jobs and cutting the deficit. The president also argues that his second term would be a bulwark against repeating the mistakes made by his Republican predecessors.

Referring to the recession he inherited four years ago, Mr. Obama told the crowd of about 6,000 in a park in Manchester that his agenda promotes “the policies that are getting us out of this mess.”

“Unemployment has fallen from 10 percent to 7.8 percent,” the president said. “We need to keep moving forward. We’ve got more work to do. That’s why I’m running for a second term.”

Left unmentioned was the fact that the national jobless rate was 7.6 percent when Mr. Obama took office.

Mr. Obama did try Thursday to fill in some of the blanks about his vision for the future, including subsidizing college tuition, increasing U.S. exports, raising taxes on the wealthy and promoting clean energy, which he said would create jobs and “reduce the carbon pollution that’s heating our planet.”

“That’s my agenda for the future,” Mr. Obama said.

Whether or not that qualifies as an agenda that will motivate voters, Mr. Obama’s message isn’t always sinking in with the public.

Asked whether the president has done a good job describing his vision for a second term, supporter Ron Chito of Medford, Mass., replied, “Not really.”

“If you’re a good reader and you know what is going on, then you have a good idea what his policies are and where he’s headed,” said Mr. Chito, a retired utility worker who attended the rally in Manchester. “Hopefully, we can get more Democrats in the House and Senate so we can get a good jobs bill passed.”

Mrs. Malbon said she will vote for the president, but she expects more gridlock with Republicans in Congress.

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