President Barack Obama made his final campaign-trail and radio pitches to voters as he asked for support in helping his party retain control of Congress, while Republicans predicted an historic election sweeping incumbents from office.
Obama appeared yesterday with Vice President Joe Biden in Cleveland in what was his last stop on a four-state swing to try to stem a potential loss of his party’s majority control in tomorrow’s elections. The president continued political efforts from the White House today, giving interviews to syndicated and local radio program hosts. First lady Michelle Obama campaigned for Senator Harry Reid in Nevada.
“You’ve got the chance to once again say, ‘Yes we can,’” Obama, 49, said yesterday inside an arena at Cleveland State University. “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 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.
Obama’s weekend schedule took him to states where Democrats are trying to build a firewall to maintain control of the U.S. Senate. The party is likely to lose its grip on the U.S. House, according to independent analyst rankings and polls.
Setback for Agenda
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.”
The Democratic National Committee is using the president to make the party’s closing argument through a new ad.
“We cannot sit this one out,” Obama tells a crowd of supporters in the ad, which will run nationally on cable channels MSNBC and BET until the election. In footage from rallies held over the last several months, Obama warns voters that if Republicans win the elections, the party will return to the economic policies that caused the recession.
The DNC has transferred $2.67 million to state parties for the final election push. States receiving the last minute influx of funds include Illinois, Ohio, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Florida.
In television appearances, Democratic officials said they remained determined to prove analysts wrong.
“It’s not a lost cause,” Maryland 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.”
Republicans Lead in Polls
Polls contradict such optimism. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll conducted October 27-30, 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 six 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 three percentage points for the CNN survey and three to five 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, according to Pew.
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.
Campaign’s Final Phase
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama, said in an interview that Obama would 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.
Obama this afternoon taped an interview for the syndicated radio programs of Ryan Seacrest, Russ Parr and Steve Harvey that are set for broadcast tomorrow. He was sitting for a live interview with broadcaster Michael Baisden, and was interviewed on local stations this morning, including those in Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
‘Lurch to the Left’
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’s health care and economic policies that represent the “biggest lurch to the left” in American 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.
One of Obama’s weekend stops was in Chicago as he sought to boost the Democrat trying to win his old U.S. Senate seat.
Obama 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.
Mark Kirk, a five-term Republican congressman, 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.
Obama’s weekend tour also included 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 appeared in Philadelphia with Representative Joe Sestak, a Democrat in a close Senate race with former Representative Pat Toomey, a Republican.