- Associated Press - Sunday, October 31, 2010

CLEVELAND (AP) — President Obama made Ohio his final campaign stop Sunday in the tumultuous midterm elections, trying to help hard-pressed Democrats in a state that could prove crucial to his re-election hopes in two years.

Republicans see Tuesday’s vote shaping up as a stern public rejection of two more years of Democratic control on Capitol Hill.

“Obviously, the other side is enthusiastic,” Mr. Obama said as he ordered pancakes, eggs and turkey sausage to go at the Valois Cafeteria in Chicago before departing for a rally in Cleveland with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “We’ve got to make sure our side is, too,” he told reporters in the noisy cafe full of surprised diners.

While Mr. Obama said he felt good about Democrats’ chances if their supporters turn out in large numbers, Sarah Palin said the message that voters were ready to send to his party was anything but palatable: “You blew it, President Obama. We gave you the two years to fulfill your promise of making sure that our economy starts roaring back to life again,” said Mrs. Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor.

Mr. Obama carried Ohio easily in 2008, and Democrats once had high hopes of re-electing Gov. Ted Strickland this year and taking the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich. But with the recession barely loosening its grip in the state and the president’s approval ratings sagging, Democrats have all but given up on the Senate race and are desperate to save Mr. Strickland and several imperiled House members.

Cleveland was the last of Mr. Obama’s four weekend stops, after visiting Philadelphia, Connecticut and Chicago on Saturday. All are generally friendly locations for Democrats, and the White House strategy is to fire up core voters who may feel despondent in this GOP-trending year.

Republicans are confident of picking up more than 40 House seats, which would give them the majority, but a GOP Senate majority seems less likely. Republicans also expect to pick up a number of governorships.

“What the American people are looking at and they’re saying is: ‘The Obama policies aren’t working. We need new policies; we need an economic-growth agenda,’” said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican Governors Association. “If Republicans win, that’s what it will be, a repudiation of Obama’s policies.”

Democratic leaders tried to play down the potential losses. They pointed to tightening races and tried to focus on campaign promises by many Republicans that they say will repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law and roll back other initiatives.

“This is a choice, a clear choice, not a referendum,” said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, who was on hand in Cleveland. “They have a political and partisan agenda, which they’ve had from Day One. We’re the problem-solvers trying to get this nation going after a lost decade that they created.”

A Strickland loss to Republican John Kasich, a former congressman, would have many ramifications beyond the state. Ohio will lose two House seats because of the 2010 census, and its governor will help oversee a redistricting process that may be fiercely partisan. Governors also can direct substantial political resources to the presidential contender of their choice.

Should Mr. Obama lose Ohio in 2012, it would make it all the more important for him to win other highly contested states such as Pennsylvania and Florida.

Illinois is the largest recipient of last-minute money for get-out-the-vote efforts from the Democratic National Committee, and Ohio is fourth. Of the nearly $2.7 million being transferred to state parties, $950,000 went to Illinois, $470,000 to Florida, $325,000 to Pennsylvania and $300,000 to Ohio.

Top Republicans say it’s too little and too late.

The DNC aired a new ad featuring Mr. Obama that warns of record cuts in education and rollbacks in financial accountability if Republicans take control of Congress.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele dismissed concerns of government gridlock if GOP lawmakers refuse to compromise with Democrats on issues such as deficit spending and taxation.

“With the Republican majority in the House or Senate or, hopefully, both, we’re not going to compromise on those things,” Mr. Steele said.

In many races, large numbers of voters have made their choices. In Ohio, where Democrats could lose up to six House seats, more than 721,000 votes have been cast. California officials already have in hand almost 2.5 million ballots, and Florida officials have almost 1.7 million.

More than 13.5 million votes have been cast early, either at ballot boxes that opened early or by mail. Four years ago, during the last nonpresidential election, some 19 million people voted before Election Day.

Mr. Kaine and Mr. Barbour appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Mrs. Palin was on “Fox News Sunday,” while Mr. Steele was on CNN’s “State of the Union.”



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