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Obama To Fundraise In Economically Strapped Calif.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm David Greene.

The latest jobs numbers were worse than economists had been forecasting. And the unemployment rate for African-Americans in the United States is especially dismal. At 13.6 percent, it is nearly double the national average. Some analysts predict that could spell political trouble for President Obama. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates spoke with African-Americans in and around View Park, a predominately black neighborhood in Los Angeles, where the president will pay a visit tomorrow.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, BYLINE: The jobs report comes at a time when Mr. Obama is traveling to California for a series of fundraisers. In a state ravaged by the recession, one of the president's stops will be in View Park, a comfortable neighborhood of large homes nestled in the Baldwin Hills. At various times, it's been home to singers Ray Charles and Nancy Wilson, and former mayor Tom Bradley.


BATES: As she stops to admire a waterfall during a neighborhood garden tour, Jocelyn McCauley says the president has accomplished a lot, even though he hasn't been able to create many jobs.

JOCELYN MCCAULEY: I think that the things that he's done with health care has helped, not only black, but other people in this country. I think that the things that he did to save jobs in Detroit was helpful to people. You can't do everything at every turn. One step at a time.

BATES: A few blocks away, retired educator Maxine Young sits under a large sun umbrella. She doesn't want the president to spend much time in bipartisan outreach.

MAXINE YOUNG: I think he's on the right track. And he's had to deal with a obstructionist Republican Party that set out to make sure he would be a one term president. And that was their goal. They weren't working to help. He tried to reach out and do bi-partisan things and that didn't work.

BATES: View Park is considered fairly well-off in terms of black earning power, but it is a pocket of relative affluence surrounded by need.


BATES: Down the hill from View Park, the weekly farmer's market is pulling shoppers from several surrounding neighborhoods, most of them black, many of them economically stressed. Sampling some of the produce, artist Eugene Loveck says black voters have to keep in mind they are one of many constituencies that are hurting.

EUGENE LOVECK: He's the president for the entire country, and the economic situation is affecting everyone. Of course, we're usually affected more, because we're working class, and so it has to help everyone before it can help us as well.

BATES: Next to him, Martin Thomas is manning an information booth. Thomas says he doesn't hold the president responsible for jobs creation or the lack of it.

MARTIN THOMAS: Well, it's nothing he can do about it, you know. The jobs, there's nothing he can do about it unless he creates some programs from the government itself, like FDR did, but I don't think he's going to do that.

BATES: Thomas voted for the president in 2008 and he doesn't believe some analysts' predictions that the sluggish economic recovery will harm the president's chances for reelection.

THOMAS: Yeah, well, they say a lot of things are going to hurt him. Just like when he said gay marriage is ok, you know. That's just politics. I'm still going to vote for him.

BATES: Where the president has black critics, most of them are to his left. Robert Gladden lives down the street from where the Obama fundraiser will be held, but he says he's probably not going to vote for the president. He likes him well enough, but he voted green the last time. Unlike Martin Thomas, Gladden does believe the president's fortunes are hooked to the country's economic health.

ROBERT GLADDEN: You know, he's riding the wave of the economy. If it teeters, if it's doing badly, he's going to suffer for it, rightly or wrongly. If jobs go up or down, it's his fault. It's his economy. Romney can use that to hammer him.

BATES: At the moment, Mitt Romney is doing exactly that. And even though they're among those most affected by the current economic slump, most black voters across the economic spectrum here in California are expected to vote for Mr. Obama anyway.

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Karen Grigsby Bates is the Senior Correspondent for Code Switch, a podcast that reports on race and ethnicity. A veteran NPR reporter, Bates covered race for the network for several years before becoming a founding member of the Code Switch team. She is especially interested in stories about the hidden history of race in America—and in the intersection of race and culture. She oversees much of Code Switch's coverage of books by and about people of color, as well as issues of race in the publishing industry. Bates is the co-author of a best-selling etiquette book (Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times) and two mystery novels; she is also a contributor to several anthologies of essays. She lives in Los Angeles and reports from NPR West.

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