Obama tells Dems that economy, healthcare will help in midterms

President Barack Obama rallied House Democrats Thursday around the healthcare bill and an economy he said will improve as they head into a midterm election campaign.

Obama said that the legislation Congress passed since he became president is moving the economy forward and that Republican opposition to the healthcare bill will buoy Democrats in November.

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"Let me tell you something, if Republicans want to campaign against something by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have," Obama said.

"If their best idea is to return to the bad policies and the bad ideas of yesterday, they are going to lose that argument," he added.

Obama spoke before the entire House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol as part of the Democrats' jobs summit. The president and the caucus's leaders said Thursday that the economy is in better shape than it was when Obama took office almost exactly a year ago, and that they'll take more steps to create jobs with the unemployment rate still at 10 percent.

"Thanks to what you did, we can say now what we could not say a year ago," Obama said. "America is moving forward again."

The president's speech launched several salvos at Republicans that Democrats will likely echo in the 2010 campaign. House Democrats are trying to buck historical trends in retaining a large House majority despite holding the White House at the same time.

Obama said that stimulus investments in education, new regulations on to protect consumers from credit card companies, a bill helping women seek for equal pay as male colleagues and other legislation passed in 2009 has helped the country move in a new direction after the Bush administration.

"I am absolutely confident that we will be able to look back at the end of this year and say things are getting better," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who introduced the president, ticked off a number economic indicators -- a 4,000 point rise in the Dow index over the past year, an economy projected to grow at an annualized rate of 4 percent instead of contracting by 6 percent -- to argue that Democrats have put the country in better shape than it was in when Republicans left the White House.

Obama also said he has seen the polls, which show voter discontent with the healthcare bill and Congress. But he said that the healthcare bill, once passed, will give people a "fair shake" in dealing with their insurance company and that Democratic policies will resonate with voters.

"The worst fears will prove groundless," he said.

Obama said he would take a lead role in selling the Democratic message on healthcare, vowing to wage a "great campaign from one end of the country to the other, telling Americans with insurance or without what they stand to gain."