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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Obama Weighs Influence on Democrats’ Midterm Races - NYTimes.com

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...Image via Wikipedia
Obama Weighs Influence on Democrats’ Midterm Races - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — As lunch was served in the Roosevelt Room of the White House one day last week, President Obama assured the nine Democratic members of Congress sitting around the table that he would do anything he could to help them survive their fall elections.

Even, he said, if it meant staying away.

“You may not even want me to come to your district,” Mr. Obama said, according to guests, nearly all of whom hold seats that Republicans are aggressively seeking.

Three months before the midterm elections, the president is stepping up his involvement in the fight to preserve the Democratic Party’s control of Congress. But advisers said he would concentrate largely on delivering a message, raising money and motivating voters from afar, rather than on racing from district to district.
                                     
It is a vivid shift from the last two elections, when Mr. Obama was the hottest draw for Democratic candidates in red and blue states alike. And it highlights the tough choices Democrats face as they head toward Election Day with the president’s approval ratings depressed, Republicans energized, the economic slump still lingering and two veteran House Democrats now facing public hearings on ethics charges.

Democrats who are on the ballot hope to make the election about issues other than Mr. Obama, including the benefits to their constituents of the health care and stimulus legislation and the argument that voting Republican means a return to the policies of President George W. Bush.

That line of thinking is largely shared inside the West Wing, where advisers are trying to determine the balance between using Mr. Obama to inspire voters and keeping him from becoming a defining negative presence. Already, Mr. Obama is popping up more as a target in Republican campaign advertisements than as a positive presence in Democratic ones.

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