- The Washington Times - Monday, October 20, 2014

With crucial elections two weeks away and an Ebola crisis to manage, President Obama worked from home Monday — his home in Chicago — while much of his party continues to shun him.

Mr. Obama spent the day away from Washington, attending a private fundraiser and voting early in his hometown in an effort to boost Democratic turnout in key states.

White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said Mr. Obama spent the afternoon doing “a little bit of work from home,” including receiving a briefing on Ebola from counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco. The president also conducted interviews with targeted radio stations from his house as he tried to rally blacks to vote in the midterm elections.

Some of the minority voters whom the president is trying to reach appeared unimpressed with his first campaign appearance of the season, at a rally Sunday evening for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown in Prince George’s County. Numerous people at the campaign event streamed for the exits while Mr. Obama was still speaking.

Asked whether it was odd that Mr. Obama wasn’t on the campaign trail Monday with congressional candidates two weeks before Election Day, Mr. Schultz said it was not.

“I don’t think it’s weird given everything that we are trying to manage,” he said. “There’s a lot of significant, complex situations going on both around the world and here at home, and I think a lot of those issues have dominated the president’s time. So I think you’ll see the president … campaign when he can, but obviously we’re focused on managing those problems as well.”

Many Democratic candidates, especially in key Senate races in Republican-leaning states, have avoided appearances with Mr. Obama on the campaign trail. The president’s job approval ratings have been slumping all year.

The White House said no campaign appearances have been added to the president’s schedule in the coming days.

Mr. Obama cast his ballot Monday in Chicago, taking advantage of early voting in Illinois in a photo opportunity to boost Democratic turnout in key states.

“I’m so glad I can early vote,” Mr. Obama said while getting his ballot at the Dr. Martin Luther King Community Service Center. “I love voting. Everybody in Illinois, early vote.”

At the electronic voting machine, the president had to bend over to cast his ballot.

“I will say this is made for folks who are a little short,” Mr. Obama said.

A poll worker asked whether he was Barack Obama.

“That’s me,” he said. The president hugged a few other voters, who told him they loved him.

“I love you back,” Mr. Obama said.

The president said he couldn’t disclose how he marked his ballot but added, “This is the most important office of democracy: the office of citizenry.”

Mr. Obama said at a rally Sunday night that he planned to vote for Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Democrats who are seeking re-election.

The president attended a Democratic fundraiser late Monday at the Chicago home of Barbara Goodman Manilow, chairwoman of the board of the Crown Family Philanthropies. About 50 people paid a minimum of $10,000 per head for tickets.

After the fundraiser, Mr. Obama flew back to Washington on Air Force One.

One of his guests on the plane was top adviser Valerie Jarrett, who is recovering from surgery in Chicago for a degenerative spine condition.

The White House also said Monday that Ebola czar Ron Klain will start work Wednesday. The president tapped him Friday to be the administration’s point man after widespread criticism that nobody appeared to be in charge of the crisis.

Mr. Schultz said Mr. Klain has been meeting with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and some other staff. Although Mr. McKlain will be paid for his work, the spokesman declined to reveal the czar’s salary.

The administration will have representatives at a House hearing Friday on Ebola, but Mr. Schultz confirmed that Mr. Klain will not be testifying, saying “that will be Day 3 of his tenure.”

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