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Obama makes 4-state sprint to help Democrats

Party braces for setbacks; GOP confident of gains in House

President Obama stumped at a Democratic campaign rally in Cleveland yesterday with Senate candidate Lee Fisher (left) and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. President Obama stumped at a Democratic campaign rally in Cleveland yesterday with Senate candidate Lee Fisher (left) and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. (Tony Dejak/ Associated Press)
By Charles Babington
Associated Press / November 1, 2010

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CLEVELAND — President Obama made Ohio his final campaign stop yesterday in the tumultuous midterm elections, trying to help hard-pressed Democrats in a state that could prove crucial to his fortunes in two years. But Republicans said it was too little and too late.

GOP leaders voiced confidence that their party will pick up more than 40 House seats and regain the majority they lost four years ago. Republican control of the Senate seems less likely, although they expect to gain several seats there, as well as numerous governors’ seats.

Obama, bracing for perhaps one of the biggest midterm setbacks in recent times, made a four-state weekend sprint to help embattled Democrats as best he can. He said their chances are good if their supporters turn out heavily tomorrow.

But Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP nominee for vice president, predicted on “Fox News Sunday’’ that voters will send a sobering message: “You blew it, President Obama. We gave you the two years to fulfill your promise of making sure that our economy starts roaring back to life again.’’

As he did in three other states this weekend, the president implored voters in Ohio to recall how poorly the Republicans handled the economy when they were in control, and to give Democrats more time.

“It’s up to you to remember that this election is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that are leading us out of this mess,’’ he told about 8,000 people at Cleveland State University.

Obama said Republicans would return to policies that cut taxes for billionaires, cut regulations for special interests, and “cut loose’’ middle-class families to fend for themselves.

But Republicans see tomorrow’s vote shaping up as a stern public rejection of two more years of Democratic control on Capitol Hill.

“What the American people are looking at and they’re saying is, ‘the Obama policies aren’t working. We need new policies, we need an economic-growth agenda,’ ’’ said Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

“If Republicans win, that’s what it will be, a repudiation of Obama’s policies,’’ Barbour said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.’’

Democrats pointed to tightening races and tried to focus on campaign promises by many Republicans that they will repeal Obama’s health care law and roll back other initiatives.

“This is a choice, a clear choice, not a referendum,’’ said Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine, who appeared on the NBC program with Barbour. “They have a political and partisan agenda, which they’ve had from Day One. We’re the problem-solvers trying to get this nation going after a lost decade that they created.’’

Obama carried Ohio easily in 2008, and Democrats once had high hopes of reelecting Governor Ted Strickland this year and taking the Senate seat being vacated by Republican George Voinovich. But with the recession barely losing its grip in the state, and the president’s approval ratings sagging, Democrats have all but given up on the Senate race and are desperate to save Strickland and several imperiled House members.

Obama campaigned Saturday in Philadelphia, Connecticut, and Chicago. All are generally friendly locations for Democrats, and the White House strategy is to fire up core voters who may feel despondent in this GOP-trending year.

In Portland, Maine, former president Bill Clinton campaigned again yesterday for Democrat Libby Mitchell as she and four other candidates for governor ramped up their get-out-the-vote efforts. It was Clinton’s second stop in Maine in five weeks to help Mitchell, who’s sagging in polls to third in the five-way race, behind Republican front-runner Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler.

Alaska is perhaps the most unsettled state politically this weekend, and Democrats say it’s conceivable they could score an upset Senate win there.

With GOP nominee Joe Miller stumbling badly, and Senator Lisa Murkowski making a rare write-in effort after losing the primary to Miller, little-noticed Democrat Scott McAdams might find a way to sneak through to victory.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has poured more than $160,000 into the once-ignored race.

“We believe that Scott McAdams actually has a real chance of winning this race,’’ committee chairman Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said yesterday.

In Ohio, a Strickland loss to Republican John Kasich would have many ramifications beyond the state. Ohio will lose two House seats because of the 2010 Census, and its governor will help oversee a redistricting process that may be fiercely partisan. Governors also can direct substantial political resources to the presidential contender of their choice.

Should Obama lose Ohio in 2012, it would make it all the more important for him to win other highly contested states such as Pennsylvania and Florida.

Strickland underlined the symbolic importance of Ohio, telling the Cleveland audience that the state is “a microcosm of America.’’

Illinois is the largest recipient of last-minute money for get-out-the-vote efforts from the Democratic National Committee, and Ohio is fourth.

Of the nearly $2.7 million being transferred to state parties, $950,000 went to Illinois, $470,000 to Florida, $325,000 to Pennsylvania, and $300,000 to Ohio.