President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden made a final plea to voters to help Democrats keep control of Congress as Republicans predicted a wave election that will sweep many incumbents from office.
Their joint appearance in Cleveland was the last stop on a four-state swing for Obama as he tried to stem a potential loss of his party’s majority control.
“In just two days, you’ve got the chance to once again say, ‘Yes we can,’” Obama, 49, said inside an arena at Cleveland State University that was about two-thirds full. “There is no doubt that this is a difficult election and that’s because we’ve gone through an incredibly difficult time as a nation.”
The Democratic National Committee is using Obama to make its closing argument in the final days of the campaign, in a new ad urging voters to cast their ballots on Nov 2.
“We cannot sit this one out,” Obama tells a crowd of supporters in the ad, which will run nationally on MSNBC and BET until the election. In footage from campaign rallies held over the last several months, Obama warns voters that if Republicans win the elections, the party will return the country to the economic policies that caused the recession.
The DNC has transferred $2.67 to state parties for the final election push. States receiving the last minute influx of funds include Illinois, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Overall the party has raised more than $115 million for state parties and candidates.
Building a Firewall
Obama’s weekend schedule took him to states where Democrats are trying to build a firewall for their continued control of the U.S. Senate. The party’s grasp on the U.S. House is tenuous, according to analyst rankings and polls.
Republican dominance even in one chamber likely would set back Obama’s agenda, while the loss of Democratic governorships could add extra hurdles to any 2012 re-election bid because of the help they can provide in swing states such as Ohio.
The Obama-Biden rally was meant to benefit Ohio Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, who is in a close race with Republican challenger John Kasich, a former congressman.
“We’re going to make sure the bankrupted policies of the Republican Party don’t knock us down again,” Biden said at the rally. “We’re starting to get out of this God-awful mess.”
In Ohio’s Senate race, polls show Republican Rob Portman leading Democrat Lee Fisher to fill the seat left vacant by the retirement of Republican George Voinovich.
“President Obama has enormous political capital invested in Ohio,” Voinovich told reporters on a conference call, adding that Obama’s repeated Ohio visits “have been more about his concern for his future election in 2012 than the future of Ohio.”
Cleveland is one of four finalists to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where Obama will likely seek re- nomination for a second term.
Democratic officials on the Sunday talk shows pointed out that the election is not over. “Democrats are much more fired up,” said Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“It’s not a lost cause,” Representative Chris Van Hollen, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “All these Washington pundits are going to be surprised.”
Republican Polling Lead
Recent polls contradict such optimism. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted October 27 to 30, Republicans are leading Democrats 52 percent to 42 percent among likely voters. A Pew Research Center poll conducted during the same period gives Republicans a 6 percentage-point advantage.
The ratings suggest the Republican Party will win enough of the popular vote to gain control of the House, according to Pew. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points for CNN and between 3 to 5 percentage points for Pew.
Much of the Republican momentum is driven by independent voters, who backed Democrats by a 42 percent to 35 percent margin in the 2006 election. Today they favor the Republicans 45 percent to 32 percent.
Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that if Republicans win the House it will be a repudiation of Obama’s policies. Barbour, governor of Mississippi, said the election is a referendum on Obama health care and economic policies that represent the “biggest lurch to the left in American political history.”
“It’s going to be a political earthquake and the message will have been sent to the left that they blew it,” Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said winning the House would force Republicans to vote for unpopular spending cuts and tax increases in order to uphold a pledge to voters to trim the budget deficit by $100 billion next year.
“The Republicans will be forced to govern,” Kaine said on the NBC program. Kaine said Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have a “political and partisan agenda” of making Obama a one-term president.
Obama went to the center of his political base last night for a rally a few blocks from his home on Chicago’s South Side. That stop was meant to motivate Democratic voters and boost the man trying to win the president’s old U.S. Senate seat.
That Obama was forced to spend part of the final campaign weekend in Illinois, where all of the statewide elected officials are Democrats, illustrated the defensive position he and his party have been forced into by a political environment that could reshape control of Washington.
Obama, who taught at the University of Chicago’s law school, has placed his political prestige on the line in Illinois. He has made three appearances for Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic state treasurer seeking the Illinois Senate seat. That rivals his effort for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is trailing in the most recent Nevada polls against Republican Sharron Angle.
“I need you to knock on some doors,” Obama told the Chicago crowd. “I need you to talk to your neighbors. I need you to get out and vote.”
Mark Kirk, the Republican nominee, and Giannoulias have spent much of their campaign debating who is least trustworthy. Giannoulias has dealt with fallout from the April failure of his family’s Broadway Bank, while Kirk was forced to apologize for exaggerating his biography.
Kirk, a five-term congressman from Chicago’s northern suburbs, is scheduled to appear today in Chicago with Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts. Brown won a January special election in a state that, like Illinois, historically leans Democratic.
Republicans are projected to gain a net of least 55 U.S. House seats by the Rothenberg Political Report, a nonpartisan publication based in Washington. Republicans need a 39-seat gain to take control of the chamber.
Rothenberg and other analysts say Democrats have a better chance of keeping control of the U.S. Senate, where Republicans would need to gain 10 seats to take control.
‘A Great Shot’
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama, said Democrats have “a great shot” to hold onto the House. “We’re not writing anything off,” he said.
The midterm campaign has been shaped by a national unemployment rate at or above 9.5 percent for the last 14 months, criticism of the White House’s domestic agenda and an anti-Washington sentiment reflected in the Tea Party movement.
In an interview, Axelrod said Obama will spend the final phase of the campaign “calling into stations and targeted media” in local markets with close races.
“It’s better at this point to have him in one place where we can reach a lot of venues at once and that’s through media,” he said.
Yesterday Obama made a Connecticut stop to support Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal, who is leading in the polls in his contest with Republican nominee Linda McMahon, a Tea Party favorite and former chief executive officer of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. He also stopped in Philadelphia to boost Representative Joe Sestak, a Democrat in a close Senate race with former Representative Pat Toomey, a Republican.
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