Obama uses White House clout to try and help Democrats

Obama on the stump (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Less than a week before Election Day, President Barack Obama is quietly using the power of his office in a final effort to get Democratic supporters to the polls and nudge close races in his party’s favor.

Though Obama is off the campaign trail for three full days this week, he’s personally targeting key Democratic constituencies from the White House, holding conference calls with union activists and campaign volunteers, and doing interviews with radio stations that draw largely black audiences. He’ll also target younger voters when he tapes an appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on Wednesday.

The president will wrap up the week with a final campaign swing through five states where Democratic candidates are locked in tight contests.

It’s a homestretch strategy based on how the White House believes the president can be most effective in an election in which his name is not on the ballot but his agenda is up for debate. According to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, nearly half of likely voters say their votes for the House are intended to send a message about Obama.

White House officials say that while they still see value in the large rallies Obama has been holding across the country this month — he’ll headline three more this weekend — they also recognize that with just six days until the election, many voters have already made up their minds.

“You’ve identified who your voters are,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday, adding that now is the time to get those voters motivated to show up on Election Day.

Obama held a conference call with thousands of union activists Tuesday night to thank them for the hours they’ve spent knocking on doors and working phone banks to boost turnout for Democratic candidates.

Union officials said Obama was acknowledging the critical role that organized labor’s get-out-the-vote machine will play in helping Democrats hold onto as many congressional seats as possible.

Obama will hold a similar call Wednesday with volunteers for Organizing for America, the network that grew out of his presidential campaign, to encourage them in their final get-out-the-vote efforts.

The president took a tough tone Tuesday during an interview with American Urban Radio Networks, telling Democrats their fate in the election is in their own hands.

“If we turn out at the levels we turned out in 2008, we’ll win,” he said. “It’s pretty straightforward.”

That argument will be a central part of Obama’s message during his final campaign stops, beginning with a trip to Charlottesville, Va., Friday on behalf of embattled Rep. Tom Perriello. Obama will also take part in a canvassing event Saturday in Philadelphia and headline rallies in Bridgeport, Conn., and Chicago the same day.

Obama will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden for a rally in Cleveland on Sunday, his final stop before Tuesday’s elections.

Though the president has made numerous campaign trips in recent weeks, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said Obama aides had long planned for the president to spend much of the final week before Election Day in Washington, noting that Obama’s duties extend beyond the campaign trail.

“There’s always more on the president’s plate than can possibly be handled at one time,” Pfeiffer said.

Officials say the president has been getting daily updates on the midterms during meetings with his senior advisers. He also gets more detailed guidance on individual races from state and local officials when he’s on the road campaigning for candidates.

Obama showed he’s following the elections closely during another of his radio interviews Tuesday, as he ticked off key races to watch.

“In Pennsylvania, it’s a tossup state not just for the Senate race but also a whole bunch of House races. You look at Colorado: tossup Senate race, bunch of House races same thing,” Obama said on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show.” He also singled out close races in California, Washington, Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

The White House is also relying on Biden and Michelle Obama to rally Democrats on the road. Biden has campaign stops planned every day through Sunday.

The first lady is wrapping up a West Coast campaign swing in Los Angeles on Wednesday and will hit the trail again Monday with events in Las Vegas and Philadelphia.
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Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Sam Hananel contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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