Obama hits local TV to sell wavering Democrats on trade

President Obama will try to sway House Democrats into supporting trade legislation with a series of local TV interviews that will air in their districts.

The plan is for the president to bring his case for new trade deals directly to the voters of members who are on the fence about trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation.

Obama on Wednesday will sit down with local anchors from San Diego, Sacramento, Seattle, Dallas and El Paso. 


The latter is the hometown of Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who is undecided on the fast-track trade legislation that could be voted on in the House this month.

Obama will “talk about how trade legislation would benefit the economy of the communities where they broadcast” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

The White House will also release data showing how free-trade deals would help boost job growth and exports in each metro area where Obama's interviews air.

The interviews are part of the White House’s broader strategy to rally Democratic votes to pass the fast-track bill.

The measure is critical to advancing a sweeping 12-nation trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations, which is at the top of Obama’s second-term agenda.

But it faces an uphill climb in the House, where Republicans are skeptical of granting Obama trade powers and liberal Democrats are fiercely opposed, fearing new trade deals could ship American jobs overseas.

Earnest said Obama has told undecided members he can provide political cover against attacks from labor unions and liberal groups if they side with him and vote for the trade bill.

“He’ll stand with the Democrats who stand with him,” the spokesman said.

The White House’s pledge comes as labor groups, most notably the AFL-CIO, have ramped up pressure on Democrats to oppose the fast-track bill ahead of the 2016 elections.

The labor coalition last week launched an ad campaign against Rep. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraPhysician-lawmakers team up to urge boosters Democrats livid over GOP's COVID-19 attacks on Biden Major abortion rights group names new president MORE (Calif.), a swing-district Democrat from the Sacramento area who came out in support of the measure.

Earnest said Obama “there is ample data” showing Obama has significant influence among Democratic voters.

“Having the strong support of the most popular figure in Democratic politics for your reelection, I think most Democrats are going to find beneficial to their congressional campaigns,” he said.

- Updated at 8:03 p.m.