- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two years ago, Sen. Barack Obama, then a presidential candidate, drew 60,000 people to a riverfront park rally in Portland, Ore. Another 15,000 couldn’t get in.

But political organizers don’t expect huge crowds when now-President Obama returns to Portland on Wednesday for the first time since that campaign heyday. Instead, the goal is for a far more modest showing of 5,000 people at a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber at the convention center.

It’s the mark of a presidency weighed down by a sluggish economy, high unemployment, a poor housing market, two wars and a public that largely disapproves of Mr. Obama’s performance in office.

Mr. Obama seems undaunted by it, at least publicly, as he heads out on his longest campaign swing of the season — a four-day stretch that also will take him to Washington state, California, Nevada and Minnesota.

He’ll be raising money and rallying core Democratic constituencies, such as women, ahead of elections in less than two weeks that could shrink the party’s majorities in Congress if tradition holds on Nov. 2.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to campaign separately with Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Barbara Boxer of California and Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada — Senate allies who are in tight contests against their Republican challengers.

Mr. Obama already has campaigned with each senator, sometimes more than once. But he’s making the 3,000-mile return trip to help keep them and a Democratic majority in the Senate. It’s what he needs to help get his agenda through Congress in the final two years of his term.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., first lady Michelle Obama and Mr. Biden’s wife, Jill, are doing their part, too, in an all-hands-on-deck effort by a White House fully aware of the stakes for Mr. Obama should any, or all, of these Democrats fail to return to the Senate in January.

Mr. Biden campaigned Tuesday in Washington state for Mrs. Murray and in San Francisco for Mrs. Boxer. He was scheduled to be in Reno, Nev., on Wednesday for Mr. Reid. Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden plan joint appearances next week in California and Seattle for Mrs. Boxer and Mrs. Murray.

“We always knew that this was going to be a challenging year,” Obama senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters Tuesday. “So we’re out there and we’re scrapping and we’re fighting and I think we’re going to have some good success out there.”

Besides Mr. Kitzhaber, who is campaigning to win back his old job, Mr. Obama plans to stump for gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown of California on Friday and Mark Dayton of Minnesota on Saturday.

Governors can help turn out the vote in presidential election years. They also can help draw new congressional districts, a once-a-decade process that gets under way next year following the 2010 census.

Mr. Obama has spent the week reaching out to core Democratic constituencies. He held a telephone conference call with reporters for black newspapers and invited Spanish-language journalists to the White House for a round-table discussion.

He’ll reach out to women Thursday in Seattle, discussing women and the economy with a female-only audience.

And next week, Mr. Obama will court younger voters and those who don’t rely on traditional media for their news when he takes his campaign message to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.

Associated Press writer Tim Fought in Portland, Ore., contributed to this report

 

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