Wednesday, February 3, 2010

President Obama held court on Wednesday with Senate Democrats at their policy committee issues conference, but when it came time for questions, senators locked in tough reelection campaigns dominated the session.

The session, hosted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — trailing in his own campaign by more than 10 percentage points, according to the latest polls — began with a question from Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter.

Mr. Specter, a former Republican, trails his challenger, former Rep. Pat Toomey, by 9 points, a recent Rasmussen poll found.

Next up was Colorado incumbent Michael Bennet, who trails former state Lt. Gov. Republican Jane Norton by 9 points in the latest Rasmussen poll. Then the president called on Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, a health care reform advocate who trails Republican Rep. John Boozman by a whopping 19 points in the latest Rasmussen poll.

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The event highlighted just how important it is even to Democrats to be seen challenging the president by their constituents. House Republicans sparred with Mr. Obama on Friday at their retreat.

Mr. Obama then took a question from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who trails former Gov. George Pataki in the latest polls, even though he has not yet decided whether to run. Next up was Sen. Barbara Boxer, who led by just 3 percentage points over Carly Fiorina in the latest Rasmussen poll.

The president then called on a couple of safe incumbents, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, before ending the session by calling on another embattled Democrat, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh. The two-term incumbent, a big supporter of Mr. Obama’s unpopular plan to reform health care, trailed Rep. Mike Pence by 3 percentage points in a recent Rasmussen poll, but Mr. Pence has now decided not to run.

But in a recruiting coup, former GOP Sen. Dan Coats announced Wednesday he plans to challenge Mr. Bayh.

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