- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — President Obama used the homey backdrop of a middle-class Ohio family’s back yard Wednesday to try to show voters he shares their concerns about the economy, health care and Social Security.

Jacket off and sleeves rolled up, Mr. Obama took questions from the Weithman family and a small group of their neighbors arrayed around picnic tables and lawn chairs. His message was familiar: The economy needs more work but it’s getting better.

“A lot of it is like recovering from an illness,” the president said. “You get a little bit stronger each day.”

The event came toward the end of a three-day swing that included glitzy, million-dollar fundraisers. Mr. Obama’s focus here was more on everyday struggles. He talked privately to Joe and Rhonda Weithman and their two children, 11-year-old Josh and 9-year-old Rachel, around their kitchen table before broadening the conversation in the backyard to include families from the neighborhood.

Like any business owner, teacher or factory worker who is chosen to meet with the president, the Weithman family has a story Mr. Obama wants to tell. The White House says Joe Weithman is a co-owner of an architectural firm that has seen its business pick up because of government infrastructure spending. Rhonda Weithman lost her job last year but was able to keep her health insurance under aid provided through the economic stimulus law that the Democratic-led Congress approved.

Mr. Obama’s agenda — trying to draw attention to what his administration has done to fix a flagging economy, plus what it still wants Congress to pass — comes against the backdrop of a bitterly partisan midterm election season. He has spent the week promoting his message that voters should keep Democrats in power over Republicans that he claims lack any positive ideas.

All 435 House seats, one-third of the Senate and most governors’ jobs are on the ballot in November.

The political campaigning also continues Wednesday for the president.

Mr. Obama will speak at a fundraiser for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat trying to keep his job against a tough challenge by former Republican Rep. John Kasich. The president then will go to Miami to raise cash for Florida Democrats.

Already this week, the president’s stops have included a Los Angeles fundraiser that raised $1 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Monday, and two events in Seattle that raised $1.3 million for Sen. Patty Murray and Washington Democrats on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama’s aides say he takes seriously the job of giving personal attention to candidates and helping them make the case about the upcoming election.

The results are vital for him too, as Mr. Obama needs Democrats to retain their congressional majorities if he is to keep pressing an agenda that has received virtually no Republican support.

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