Obama Targets East and Midwest in Final Weekend of Campaigning

BY David Chalian  October 29, 2010 at 8:44 AM EDT

Obama in Ohio

President Obama speaks at a Democratic rally at Ohio State University earlier this month. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Before embarking on a final midterm campaign swing that will see him make five stops in three days, President Obama will first attend to a little business, literally.

The president will deliver remarks on the economy Friday at a small business in Beltsville, Md., where he will most certainly address the government’s estimate of third-quarter economic growth, which was at 2 percent according to the Commerce Department.

After that, it’s all politics for the rest of the weekend, beginning with a rally Friday night in Charlottesville, Va., where first-term Rep. Tom Perriello is looking to beat back a challenge from state Sen. Robert Hurt for the seat in the commonwealth’s fifth congressional district.

President Obama narrowly lost the district to John McCain in 2008, but with Charlottesville being home to the University of Virginia, the event is directed at turning out those valuable younger voters, many of whom likely cast ballots for the first time in the last presidential election. He’s also hoping to boost the district’s African-American turnout to near 2008 levels.

For Perriello to win next Tuesday he’ll need those voters to show up again.

The president’s stop in Virginia is the clearest sign yet that Democrats have put holding onto the seat at the top of their list, but it’s also a calculated risk. Hurt has used Perriello’s votes for the stimulus plan, health care reform and cap and trade to charge the Democrat has put his party’s agenda ahead of the concerns of his constituents. A visit from the president could help Hurt drive that argument home in the closing days.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and several liberal-leaning interest groups have invested heavily in the race — more than $1.6 million according to one report — to defend Perriello and his votes on some of those issues.

On Saturday, the president will hit three cities, participating in a canvassing event in Philadelphia and attending rallies in Bridgeport, Conn., and Chicago.

The canvassing event is aimed at giving a boost to a handful of Democrats in competitive races, including Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak, and Reps. Patrick Murphy and Chris Carney, who are seeking reelection.

The Bridgeport rally, meanwhile, is targeted at Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal and Jim Himes, who’s trying to hold onto his House seat in the state’s fourth district. Both races are leaning Democratic, but in this political environment the White House clearly feels it’s better to be safe than sorry. (And tying the president to some likely victories on Tuesday is not a bad optic to have as they battle back a torrent of “The Rebuking of Obama” stories next week.)

In Chicago, the race for the president’s old Illinois Senate seat between Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Rep. Mark Kirk is the marquee contest, but the state also has a competitive gubernatorial battle and some close House matchups.

On Sunday, the president will travel to Ohio, where he’ll be joined by Vice President Joe Biden at a rally in Cleveland. While some House candidates in the city’s suburbs could stand to benefit from a presidential visit, this stop is mainly focused at helping Gov. Ted Strickland win a second term in office.

BUBBA SPREADS SUNSHINE

Much like he tried to do with Rep. Joe Sestak during his Democratic primary battle with Sen. Arlen Specter, former president Bill Clinton attempted to broker a deal in the Florida Senate race that would have resulted in his friend Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., dropping out of the race and endorsing independent Gov. Charlie Crist.

It clearly didn’t work, but when POLITICO’s Ben Smith broke the story of Clinton’s efforts and Meek’s reported agreement to end his candidacy, the Florida Senate race once again took center stage.

After conversations with Clinton’s chief of staff Doug Band, Crist succeeded at getting Clinton to engage in a conversation with Meek about ending his candidacy, since it appeared that Meek and Crist were splitting the Democratic votes.

Crist also said he had a conversation with someone in the Obama administration about Clinton’s attempts to talk with Meek about dropping his bid.

Meek took to the television airwaves Friday morning to say that he had never committed to dropping out of the race.

“We discussed it and that was that. It was done,” Meek said, describing his conversation with Clinton to “Good Morning America’s” George Stephanopoulos. “I guarantee you that I did not say ‘I’m getting out of this race,’” Meek added.

Republicans could barely contain their glee. Todd Harris, a senior strategist for GOP candidate Marco Rubio, issued this statement:

“Charlie Crist truly will say and do anything to get elected and hold on to power. Secret deals to trade away principles for power is already the problem in Washington, it’s not the solution. This is simply politics as usual which is exactly what voters across the country are emphatically rejecting this election.”


SCHUMER VS. DURBIN

The voters of Nevada have not yet determined if they’re going to send the Senate Majority Leader packing.

But that hasn’t stopped some careful and cautious maneuvering on the part of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who would both like to serve as Reid’s successor.

The New York Times’ Ray Hernandez and Jennifer Steinhauer take a look at the state of play for Senate Democratic leader:

“Neither Mr. Schumer nor Mr. Durbin appears to be openly courting support for the job. And in the treacherous world of Senate leadership elections, even a hint of acting before Mr. Reid’s fate is known could be costly.

“‘With all of the problems our party is having this cycle, he has really put the kibosh on any conversations about Harry Reid other than we all have to support him,’ Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, said of Mr. Schumer. ‘I think everyone has respected Chuck’s leadership in that regard.’

“But the political activities of Mr. Durbin and Mr. Schumer in recent weeks reflect a sophisticated and nuanced effort to build support for a race that would break out almost immediately if Mr. Reid lost.”

PALIN POWER?

Sarah Palin’s endorsement helped Joe Miller win the Republican Senate primary this summer, defeating incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Now, the former Alaska governor is hoping to give Miller a boost in his general election matchup against Murkowski, who’s running as a write-in candidate, and the Democratic nominee, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams.

At a rally in Anchorage Thursday, Palin didn’t mention Murkowski by name, but her criticism was apparent nonetheless. Addressing hundreds of Miller supporters, she said the other candidates were an “out of touch liberal” and the mayor of Sitka.

Stealing a line from the 2008 campaign, Palin told the crowd to send Miller to Washington to “shake it up.”

It’s unclear whether Palin’s star power can work its magic for Miller a second time. He’s seen his poll numbers drop in recent days and has admitted misusing a government computer as a borough attorney in 2008 and then lying about it.

The other splash Palin made Thursday came during an interview with Entertainment Tonight, in which she told Mary Hart she would run for president in 2012 “if there’s nobody else to do it.”

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