Obama slams Republicans over minimum wage as vote looms

[WASHINGTON] US President Barack Obama blasted Republicans for blocking increases to the minimum wage on Friday in last-ditch campaigning ahead of next week's crucial midterm elections.

American voters head to the polls next week for a pivotal ballot which could redraw the political map, with Republicans potentially gaining control of both chambers of Congress.

Mr Obama, whose popularity is at record lows, has kept a low profile during the campaign, but went on the attack Friday as he lambasted Republicans for thwarting attempts to increase the minimum wage for workers.

"We need Republicans in Congress to stop blocking a minimum wage increase and give America a raise," Mr Obama said during an address in Providence, Rhode Island.

"About 28 million Americans would benefit if we raised the minimum wage to US$10.10 an hour," Mr Obama explained, defending his attempts to increase the current hourly rate of US$7.25.

"A majority of low-wage workers are women," he added during a discussion focused on the role of women in the economy and unequal pay.

At the end of his discussion, Mr Obama paid a surprise visit to a local restaurant alongside Gina Raimondo, who is running in Rhode Island's gubernatorial election.

Exchanging pleasantries with customers, he joked with one admirer who suggested he ought to run for a third term in 2016.

"You'd have to argue with Michelle about that, setting aside the Constitution," Mr Obama quipped, referring to his wife and rules which limit US presidents to two terms in office.

Although Mr Obama has kept a low profile during the campaign, he is planning to make a series of appearances on the trail this weekend.

On Saturday, he is to head to Detroit to offer backing to Democratic congressman Gary Peters and Mark Schauer, who is running for governor of Michigan.

On Sunday, Mr Obama will appear in Bridgeport, Connecticut to support Democratic governor Dan Malloy, before moving on to Philadelphia to support Tom Wolf, running for governor of Pennsylvania.

In many states, Democratic candidates have preferred not to enlist visible backing from Mr Obama for fear it could hurt their chances.

Mr Obama's approval ratings have been hovering around 40 per cent for several months, a critically low level for a sitting president.

Mr Obama's role in the election has focused largely on private fundraising events, with wealthy donors shelling out cash for an informal audience with the US leader.


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