- Associated Press - Sunday, October 17, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are campaigning together for the first time since the 2008 presidential race as they set their sights on Ohio.

The Obamas were to stop in Cleveland on Sunday for an event with Gov. Ted Strickland and raise money for the Democratic National Committee.

Their day was to end in Columbus at a large nighttime rally on the campus of Ohio State University aimed at firing up the young Democrats and first-time voters who helped Mr. Obama carry Ohio on his way to the White House in 2008.

Mr. Obama has been campaigning coast to coast as the Nov. 2 midterm elections fast approach. He’s trying to persuade wary voters that his policies have put the nation’s economy on a path toward recovery. But even the president has acknowledged that people are angry and frustrated in the face of 9.6 percent unemployment.

“There is no doubt that this a difficult election. That’s because we’ve been through an incredibly difficult time as a nation,” Mr. Obama said Saturday at a rally in Boston for Gov. Deval Patrick.

Though the first lady campaigned heavily for her husband during his presidential bid, she largely has stayed out of politics since moving into the White House. Her popularity has stayed high, while the president’s has fallen, making her a valuable asset on the campaign trail for Democrats.

Mrs. Obama’s campaign message has echoed the president’s: that he can’t make good on the promises he made during the 2008 campaign unless voters keep Democrats in charge of the House and Senate.

Presidential adviser David Axelrod said Republicans “will have more seats in Congress regardless of whether they have control or not. We’re hoping with that comes a greater sense of responsibility. The last two years weren’t encouraging,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Recent polls suggest Republicans may retake the House and make major gains in the Senate.

Mr. Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Democratic candidates “have done a remarkably good job in a tough political environment, and I think that come election night, we’ll retain control of both the House and the Senate.”

The Republican candidate for Ohio lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor, said Sunday that Mr. Obama’s economic policies and those of Mr. Strickland have affected the state negatively — and that voters know it.

“Ohioans are paying attention to the fact that it’s President Obama driving that agenda in Washington, and Ted Strickland is driving his agenda here — neither of which has been good for Ohio,” Ms. Taylor said on a conference call with reporters ahead of Mr. Obama’s visit to the Buckeye State.

A poll last week showed former Rep. John Kasich, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, slightly ahead of Mr. Strickland, though most polls taken in recent weeks have shown the race tightening.

Mr. Kasich and Ms. Taylor planned to hold a webcast Sunday evening with Ohio business leaders to talk about what they see as Mr. Obama and Mr. Strickland’s failure to create jobs and help the state’s economy.

For Mr. Obama, the Ohio rallies are part of a busy campaign period, with a mix of fundraisers and rallies.

Fresh from three straight days of events in Delaware, Massachusetts and Ohio, Mr. Obama will head to the West for stops in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday, Seattle and San Francisco on Thursday, Los Angeles and Las Vegas on Friday, and Minneapolis next Saturday.

Mr. Obama probably will spend Election Day in the nation’s capital. He has requested an absentee ballot to vote in his home state of Illinois.

Associated Press writer Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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