- Associated Press - Sunday, September 19, 2010

DREXEL HILL, Pa. | Victoria Newman is a proud Democrat who says that when she voted for Barack Obama in 2008, it was the most excited she’d been about politics in all her 58 years. But now, Democrats grasping to keep control of Congress will have to do without her.

Miss Newman says she’s planning to stay home on Election Day.

As she pays for a package of corn muffins at a grocery store, Miss Newman, a retired state employee, sums up her feelings about voting in November’s congressional elections with a dismissive flick of her wrist.

To retain House control, Democrats must find a way to reactivate core supporters and re-energize the independent and new voters who handed Mr. Obama the White House and swept Democrats into office.

It’s a tall order in dozens of competitive districts where enthusiasm for the president is at a low; even some of his strongest backers aren’t motivated to go to the polls.

The challenge is boosting Republicans’ hopes of winning the 40 seats they need to seize the House in a year when a sagging economy and disillusionment with Mr. Obama have created a grim outlook for the majority party.

National surveys show Republicans are far more enthusiastic than Democrats about the election. The latest Associated Press-GfK Poll found Obama voters are much less attuned to the fall contests than are those who supported Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the 2008 presidential race.

All 435 seats in the House are on the ballot. At least 75 are at risk of changing hands, the vast majority now held by Democrats.

On the outskirts of Philadelphia, in a mostly middle-class district that until recently the GOP held, Democrats are fighting to hold on to a seat left open when Rep. Joe Sestak ran for the Senate. Mr. Obama is working to raise money and stoke excitement for area Democrats with a fundraiser Monday for the Senate nominee and a rally in Philadelphia next month.

Democratic state Rep. Bryan Lentz, a former prosecutor and Iraq war veteran, says he knows his campaign to succeed Mr. Sestak “doesn’t give you goose bumps, it doesn’t make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”

He’s hoping to win over voters with a practical pitch: “OK, we’re in a bad way. We need to get some stuff done on behalf of working people. … If you want to get stuff done, hire somebody that’s done stuff and I’ve done stuff.”

It’s a far cry from Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric two years ago, still echoing in the ears of Sandra Greaves as she answers Mr. Lentz’s knock at her front door on a drizzly Sunday afternoon. She greets the candidate warmly as he introduces himself and hands her a campaign flier.

Once he’s gone, Miss Greaves who supported Mr. Obama and Democrats in 2008 says she’s considering voting Republican this time out of sheer disappointment in the president and disgust with the government.

“I was very excited about [Mr. Obama] because I felt like, here’s a guy who really understands the people, and he was going to change things and put people back to work and roll up his sleeves. It hasn’t happened,” said Miss Greaves, a 48-year-old nurse who works three jobs. “Now I feel very frustrated with the whole system.”

Mr. Lentz’s Republican opponent Pat Meehan, a former federal prosecutor and county district attorney, thinks he’ll win with the help of voters such as Miss Greaves who were eager to elect Democrats out of frustration with George W. Bush’s presidency, but now are so concerned about the economy and what he calls “an activist agenda in Washington” that they’re turning back to the GOP.

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