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Obama Begins to Frame Elections Ahead of Tough Midterm Battle

President Barack Obama offered an opening salvo in this year's battle for control of Congress on Friday, casting November's midterm elections as a choice between Democrats who support "opportunity for all" and Republicans who want only "opportunity for a few."

It's a key framing argument for 2014, offered just ahead of an election season that could shape the final two years of Obama's presidency, and possibly his place in history.

"The choice couldn't be more clear: Opportunity for a few, or opportunity for all," Obama told a gathering of the Democratic National Committee. "As Democrats, we have a different idea of what the future looks like -- an idea rooted in our conviction that our economy grows best not from the top-down, but from the middle-out."

The strategy involves a series of initiatives crafted to boost the middle class that Obama can advance over the opposition of Republicans in Congress, who have shown little inclination to give the president any election year victories. It builds upon the themes Obama first outlined last December, and enshrined during his State of the Union address this year.

Obama was quick to highlight the poor cooperation from the GOP as part of an effort to frame the choice for voters this fall.

"The bottom line is, the Republican Party can keep telling the country what they're against," Obama said. "But Democrats, we're going to keep telling America what we're for -- from giving America a raise to getting America covered. Because the people we serve are not interested in leaders are rooting for failure, and they're not interested in leaders who are only interested in refighting the old ideological battles."

Whether Obama's gambit will be a successful one is an untested proposition. The president used similar themes to great success in his re-election campaign against Mitt Romney in 2012. But midterm elections offer feature a less engaged (and slightly more Republican-friendly) electorate.

"They just keep on offering a theory of the economy that, time and again, has failed America," he said, recounting Romney's loss in 2012. "Just because this theory has a history doesn't mean it should have a future."

There are also questions about whether Obama's attacks on Republicans will begin to wear thin, just as the GOP's continued attacks staked on "Obamacare" will continue to pay dividends this fall.

If nothing else, the balance of political power in Washington could rest on how those questions are settled.

Republicans are considered to have an edge in holding control of the House due to advantages in redistricting and the small number of competitive races this cycle. The Senate is a much more competitive battleground; Democrats must defend a number of seats in conservative-leaning states if they are to maintain their majority in the upper chamber.

Making matters more challenging for both sides, neither Democrats nor Republicans appear to be the beneficiary of a tide of political momentum at this stage. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll at the end of January found Democrats leading the generic ballot by two points, scarcely the margin either party would need to fuel a "wave" election.

Obama delivered his remarks after a last-minute statement late Friday about the Ukraine. That topic came up briefly during his remarks when a heckler interrupted the president to ask him about his plan for nuclear war with Russia.

"What the heck are you talking about?" Obama responded, with a laugh.