President Obama spoke about the economy in his speech Friday before giving a Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo some last-minute support.
Obama visited Rhode Island College to talk about the economy and the importance of pursuing policies that help women succeed, including equal pay for women and a higher minimum wage, according to USA Today. Around 2,500 tickets for the speech were given out.
Rhode Island, California and New Jersey are the only states to have expanded their state disability insurance programs to cover family leave. The President said Rhode Island “has got the right idea” and the nation needs to broaden its laws for family leave. It’s “good policy” that will benefit businesses and the economy.
“While many women are working hard to support themselves and their families, they’re still facing unfair choices, outdated workplace policies … That holds them back, but it also holds all of us back.”
President Obama also talked about his speech about the economy by participating a roundtable discussion with working parents, small business owners, students and faculty. Lisbeth Paola Avalos Valiente, 23, a biological chemistry student, said it would be “amazing” if women were paid the same as men and she didn’t start her career at a disadvantage.
“This is beyond just a partisan issue … It’s something all of us should take part in, whether it’s big business, small business, Democrat, Republican.”
With four days remaining until the midterm elections, Obama is hoping to rally the Democratic base by underscoring the economic progress that’s been made during his administration, according to the Wall Street Journal. In recent weeks, the escalating battle against the Islamic State and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa have overshadowed the White House’s planned focus on an economic message heading into the midterm elections. The president originally had been scheduled to deliver this economic speech in Rhode Island in mid-October, but he postponed the trip to deal with a widening Ebola crisis.
Diana Esposito, 35, a working mother from Beverly, Massachusetts, said she told the president she and her husband work really hard and have good jobs, but it’s still a struggle. Esposito, who works for a consulting firm, said she hopes Obama can draw attention to the need for better child-care policies and flexible work schedules.
Obama has endorsed Raimondo for governor and Democrat Jorge Elorza for Providence mayor. He met briefly with both candidates before the speech and dined afterward at Gregg’s Restaurant on the Providence-Pawtucket border with Raimondo, the current state treasurer, in an unannounced campaign stop.
Mark Smiley, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the president is “still pretty popular” in Rhode Island but he doesn’t think the visit will convince voters to support Raimondo over Republican Allan Fung.
“Most of the people in Rhode Island are very happy that he came … But to draw the conclusion that she’s a better candidate because Barack Obama was here is quite a stretch, in anyone’s mind.”
President Obama says the economy should see a minimum wage increase during his speech, WPRI notes. Obama said the Affordable Care Act and flexible workplace policies allow women to make their own health care choices. “That’s why the Affordable Care Act is so important,” he said.