WASHINGTON — A day before the pivotal midterm elections, President Barack Obama pulled back from remarks he made last month when he called on Latino voters to punish their "enemies" on Election Day. In an interview Monday with radio host Michael Baisden, Obama said he should have used the word "opponents" instead of enemies.
Republicans were quick to criticize the president's remarks. House Minority Leader John Boehner was expected to use Obama's words in an election eve speech in Ohio to paint the president as a staunch partisan.
"Sadly, we have a president who uses the word 'enemy' for fellow Americans, fellow citizens. He used it for people who disagree with his agenda of bigger government," Boehner said, according to prepared remarks released in advance of his speech.
Obama's original comments came during an interview with Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo, a Hispanic radio personality. Piolin questioned how Obama could ask Latinos for their vote when many don't believe he's worked hard to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Obama responded: "If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, 'We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,' if they don't see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's gonna be harder."
The president said Monday that the message he was trying to send was that voters need to support lawmakers who stand with them on the issue.
"Now the Republicans are saying that I'm calling them enemies," Obama said. "What I'm saying is you're an opponent of this particular provision, comprehensive immigration reform, which is something very different."
With Republicans poised to score sweeping victories in Tuesday's election, Obama has been imploring the Democratic base to vote in hopes of turning some close races in his party's favor.
Though Obama had no publicly announced campaign events on his schedule Monday and Tuesday, the president has been doing radio interviews targeting young people, African-Americans and voters in key states. He was also to hold a conference call Monday night with campaign volunteers in Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Hawaii.