- Associated Press - Thursday, October 7, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) — Campaigning for Democrats in a string of blue states, President Obama is warning his party’s rank-and-file of the dangers of “sulking and sitting back.”

The day after raising cash for Democrats in New Jersey, Mr. Obama is headed Thursday to a rally for Gov. Martin O’Malley in Maryland and a pair of fundraisers in Chicago for Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, who’s trying to keep the president’s old seat out of GOP hands.

It’s a seat Democrats need as they try to avoid losing their grip on Congress — and with it, control of Mr. Obama’s agenda.

In Maryland, the afternoon rally on the campus of Bowie State University aimed to boost Mr. O’Malley in his rematch with Robert Ehrlich, the Republican he ousted in 2006. A series of recent polls have shown Mr. O’Malley in the lead.

But in Illinois, the Senate contest is considered neck-and-neck. Mr. Giannoulias, the state treasurer and a longtime Obama friend, is battling Republican Rep. Mark Kirk.

Also scheduled to appear with Mr. Obama in Chicago is Gov. Pat Quinn, who took over when Rod Blagojevich was impeached over corruption charges and trails Republican state Sen. Bill Brady in the polls.

The White House said Mr. Obama had no plans to see Rahm Emanuel, who quit as White House chief of staff last week to launch a bid to succeed Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Mr. Emanuel has been touring Chicago neighborhoods ahead of a formal announcement.

The two-state day trip comes as Mr. Obama ramps up his campaign travel in hopes of limiting Democratic losses in midterm elections now less than four weeks away.

A key goal is closing the wide gap in surveys of how excited party loyalists are.

“Right now all the reports out there are that the main challenge we have is closing an enthusiasm gap,” Mr. Obama told a Democratic National Committee dinner Wednesday night in Cresskill, N.J. “We’re not finished unless we lose sight of that long game and start sulking and sitting back and not doing everything we need to do in terms of making sure our folks turn out.”

The small dinner at the home of public relations executive Michael Kempner was expected to raise roughly $1 million, Democratic officials said.

Mr. Obama warned donors that gridlock would strike if Democrats can’t keep their majorities in both the House and the Senate.

“We’re going to be stalled for two years or four years, and we’re going to start going backwards,” he said.

Mr. Obama said Democrats are “in a very tough election season because the country is going through a very difficult time.” But he added that if their candidates make their case “robustly” they’ll do well.

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