PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With an election four days away, President Barack Obama urged women to raise their voices in favor of economic policies that benefit them and against politicians that he said belong in a "Mad Men" episode from a bygone era. Citing his own experiences as the son of a single mom and the father of two girls, he declared: "Some of this is personal."
Obama said his grandmother, a bank vice president, got passed over for promotions by people she had trained, and his mother raised him and his sister "without a lot of support."
"The idea that my daughters wouldn't have the same opportunities as somebody's sons, well that's unacceptable," he said.
Obama's appearance at Rhode Island College in Providence was part of a campaign-oriented swing in the final days of the midterm election. Obama has been making appearances this week in Democratic states where he won in 2008 and 2012 to help mobilize core Democratic voters and members of his own base of support who have a tendency to stay home in nonpresidential election days. Obama's fellow Democrats need a big turnout from female voters.
Following his remarks, Obama joined Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo for a takeout lunch at a Providence restaurant and bar. He praised Raimondo, currently the state treasurer, and urged patrons to vote. First lady Michelle Obama campaigned for Raimondo Thursday in the state.
Pushing for equal pay for women and a higher minimum wage, Obama said policies that ease financial and other burdens on women will help make the economy stronger overall. And he drew attention to economic growth since the recession at the beginning of his presidency, while conceding that those benefits have not reached many Americans.
Noting that Rhode Island law provides for paid family leave, Obama said that should be the law across the nation. He added that women also need better child-care policies and renewed his call to enroll 6 million children in high-quality day care by the end of the decade.
"So while many women are working hard to support themselves and their families, they're still facing unfair choices, outdated workplace policies," he said. "That holds them back, but it also holds all of us back. We have to do better because women deserve better."
He also promoted his health care law, which has become a Republican target in the campaign. He drew special attention to what he said were benefits aimed especially at women, such as mammograms without co-pays and insurance that can't be denied because of pre-existing conditions like breast cancer.
"No matter how many times Republicans threaten to repeal this law, we're going to keep it in place because it's working," he said.
Obama was supposed to have given this speech in Rhode Island last week. He put it off to stay at the White House to focus on cases of Ebola in the U.S.
Though the speech was not billed as a campaign event, Raimondo joined Obama at Rhode Island College and endorsed the women-focused theme of his remarks. She said conditions for women in the workplace are improving but not fast enough.
"It's certainly time to have equal pay for equal work," Raimondo said, echoing Obama's rallying cry.
Raimondo says Rhode Island's economy is "weak" but she doesn't think Rhode Islanders blame the president. She faulted current state leaders for trying to reposition the state as the manufacturing sector shrunk.
Associated Press writer Jennifer McDermott in Providence contributed to this report.