Mending Fences: Obama Targets 2008 Supporters

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THE WHITE HOUSE -- President Obama's desire to be re-elected has led to a reality check for the incumbent -- governing is much different from campaigning.

Now he's working to win back supporters upset about some of his first term decisions.

As the president travels the country trying to sell his jobs act, his approval ratings have taken a nose dive.

It's the last thing he needs in a re-election campaign where he's already experiencing a disconnect with his Democratic base.

"We're supportive of the president, but we're getting tired" said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Three Years Ago

In 2008, black voters turned out in droves to the polls, inspired by the president's message of hope and change. Now, nearly four years later, many wonder why they're no better off.

"This has been triggered again by the fact that he, as president, has not really engaged in a lot of policies that are directly of benefit to the African American community," said Chris Arterton, a professor of political management at George Washington University.

April Ryan covers the White House for the American Urban Radio Networks.

She says there's always been disparities between the black community and mainstream America. That's why the bar was set so high for the nation's first black president.

"When Barack Obama was campaigning for the Oval Office, so many people viewed him as the savior. Almost that he's going to bring this change and he was at a level that no one.he could not even achieve that level of expectation that he placed there" Ryan said.

While the national unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent, unemployment among African Americans is almost double at about 17 percent.

Among black men the numbers are even higher, standing at 18 percent.

"Money does make the world go round and people feel through their pocket books," Ryan noted.

Democratic Challenge?

Now some of Obama's most staunch supporters - like Princeton University's Dr. Cornel West - have mounted a challenge.

They want a Democrat to run against the president in an effort to make him accountable for his actions.

Ryan says African American pride only goes so far.

"But when it's all said and done it's about self preservation. Helping me to obtain or keep the American dream" she said.

At the annual gala of the Congressional Black Caucus, the president responded to his base.

"I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm gonna press on. I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining. Stop grumbling. Stop crying" Obama told the audience.

West called the president's words "offensive, condescending, insulting, disrespectful."

And PBS host Tavis Smiley wrote, "the part that hurts the most is watching black folk applaud as they're being insulted."

Once the Republicans pick their nominee, it's likely that the president's liberal base will rally behind him. However, there is another danger -- voter apathy. And it's not just among black voters, young voters who were key to the president's victory in 2008 may be losing interest.

"I think the relationship that was so exciting and energized in 2008 between young people and the Obama campaign is not likely to be restored in 2012," Arterton said.

Which means the president will have to take time away from winning over the all important independent voters to mend fences with his base.

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CBN News
Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at