Obama: Economy hurting Democratic candidates

Associated Press
President Barack Obama walks to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland outside Washington, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010. With only two weeks to critical midterm elections, Obama is traveling to Ohio to muster support for Democratic candidates, including Governor Ted Strickland. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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President Barack Obama walks to board Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland outside Washington, …

President Barack Obama says he knows the economic crisis is making this a difficult political season for his party's candidates.

Speaking at a fundraiser for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Obama said it's a tough time for Democrats all across the country. But he says his party is putting the country on the right track, and implored supporters to keep Democrats in office so they can finish the job.

With the midterm elections fast approaching, the president is trying to energize key Democratic constituencies, including young voters, African-Americans and women. Democrats also need those who voted for the first time in 2008 to head to the polls this year, even though Obama's name isn't on the ballot.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

CLEVELAND (AP) — President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are campaigning together for the first time since the 2008 presidential race as they set their sights on Ohio.

The Obamas were hopscotching across the state on Sunday, stopping first in Cleveland to attend an event with Gov. Ted Strickland, then heading to Columbus to raise money for the Democratic National Committee.

Their day was to end at a large, nighttime rally on the campus of Ohio State University aimed at firing up the young Democrats and first-time voters who helped Obama carry Ohio on his way to the White House in 2008.

Obama has been campaigning coast to coast as the Nov. 2 midterm elections fast approach. He's trying to convince wary voters that his policies have put the nation's economy on a path toward recovery. But even the president has acknowledged that people are angry and frustrated in the face of 9.6 percent unemployment.

"There is no doubt that this a difficult election. That's because we've been through an incredibly difficult time as a nation," Obama said Saturday at a rally in Boston for Gov. Deval Patrick.

Though the first lady campaigned heavily for her husband during his presidential bid, she's largely stayed out of politics since moving to the White House. Her popularity has stayed high, while the president's has fallen, making her a valuable asset on the campaign trail for Democrats.

Mrs. Obama's campaign message has echoed the president's: that he can't make good on the promises he made during the 2008 campaign unless voters keep Democrats in charge of the House and Senate.

Presidential adviser David Axelrod said Republicans "will have more seats in Congress regardless of whether they have control or not. We're hoping with that comes a greater sense of responsibility. The last two years weren't encouraging," he told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

Recent polls suggest Republicans may retake the House and make major gains in the Senate.

Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Democratic candidates "have done a remarkably good job in a tough political environment, and I think that come election night, we'll retain control of both the House and the Senate."

The Republican candidate for Ohio lieutenant governor, Mary Taylor, said Sunday that Obama's economic policies and those of Strickland have negatively affected the state — and that voters know it.

"Ohioans are paying attention to the fact that it's President Obama driving that agenda in Washington, and Ted Strickland is driving his agenda here — neither of which has been good for Ohio," Taylor said on a conference call with reporters ahead of Obama's visit to the Buckeye State.

A poll last week showed Republican challenger John Kasich slightly ahead of Strickland, though most polls taken in recent weeks have shown the race tightening.

Kasich and Taylor planned to hold a webcast Sunday evening with Ohio business leaders to talk about what they see as Obama and Strickland's failure to create jobs and help the state's economy.

For Obama, the Ohio rallies are part of a busy campaign period, with a mix of fundraises and rallies.

Fresh from three straight days of events in Delaware, Massachusetts and Ohio, Obama heads to the West for stops in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday, Seattle and San Francisco on Thursday, Los Angeles and Las Vegas on Friday and Minneapolis next Saturday.

Obama probably will spend Election Day in the nation's capital. He has requested an absentee ballot to vote in his home state of Illinois.

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Associated Press writer Ann Sanner in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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