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Obama takes breather after campaign frenzy

President Barack Obama catches his breath in the White House on Sunday after a frenzied four-day campaign dash through five states.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Barack Obama catches his breath in the White House on Sunday after a frenzied four-day campaign dash through five states — a hard-hitting series of appearances that Democrats hope will hold back a predicted Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in Nov. 2 congressional voting.

The president's message varied little as he moved across the United States, telling those who flocked to rallies and fundraising events that voters faced a choice between Republican economic policies "that got us into this mess" or the Democrats still unfinished struggle to lift the nation out of the deepest fiscal malaise in decades.

While Obama is not on the ballot this year — a fact that is compounding the so-called enthusiasm gap that is expected to keep many Democrats from going to the polls — the president has revived his campaign persona as a dynamic and inspiring political advocate for his party's candidates. He's also trying to prevent a Republican election wave that would sweep away strong Democratic majorities in Congress and likely doom much of what remains on his legislative agenda in the last two years of his term.

"All they've got is the same old stuff that they were peddling over the last decade," he said of Republicans. "I just don't want to relive the past."

He said: "The other side is betting on amnesia. It is up to you to show them that you have not forgotten."

Obama made his comments at a Minneapolis rally Saturday for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton. The former U.S. senator is facing a challenge from Republican Tom Emmer and independent Tom Horner.

It's been a grueling four days of campaigning and fundraising for Obama, who since Wednesday has touched down in Oregon, Washington state, California and Nevada before winding up in Minnesota. He has been helping congressional allies, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who find themselves in tight races because of voter fears and anger about the economy and unemployment that remains stuck at nearly 10 percent.

Republicans have made Reid their top target in the Nov. 2 election. The minority party needs to gain 10 seats to take control of the Senate, and unseating the most powerful Senate Democrat would be a major blow to Obama, who reminded supporters of Republican opposition to his agenda.

Reid is tied in the polls with relative unknown Republican Sharron Angle in a race that has attracted millions of dollars from across the nation. Angle and her ultraconservative views have become a beacon for tea party supporters who advocate smaller government and lower taxes.

Obama's visit Friday to the U.S. gambling capital was meant to give a boost to Reid, who hopes to avoid the fate of former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle who lost by a narrow margin in South Dakota in 2004.

Like incumbent Democrats everywhere — and more than most — it's not only a Republican rival that Reid is combatting. It's the troubled economy, in the state with the nation's highest rates of unemployment (14.4 percent) and home foreclosures, where the recession has taken a big bite out of Nevada's main tourism industry.

Republican candidate Angle has urged Reid to "man up" and accept his share of blame for the state's economic woes.

Reid has responded to such attacks by saying Angle like other tea party-backed candidates is too extreme for Nevada voters. He has called her an ally of the special interests and advocate for jettisoning government agencies and privatizing programs for the elderly and veterans that millions of Nevadans rely on.

Angle's ultraconservative policies have hurt her in the general election campaign with some moderate Republicans and leaders of the state's gambling and mining industries backing Reid. She has countered by casting Reid as a career politician who lives in a fashionable condominium in Washington and is out of touch with the state he has represented in Congress for decades.

Polls show that the 70-year-old Reid, who is seeking a fifth Senate term, remains very unpopular among Nevada voters, but the Senate race is among the tightest in the U.S. with both candidates polling just under 50 percent.

On Monday, Obama campaigns again in Rhode Island to help raise more money for House Democrats. He is scheduled to spend the rest of the week in Washington.

He plans to travel again the weekend before the election, making a final get-out-the-vote push at events in Bridgeport, Connecticut; his home town of Chicago; Philadelphia and Cleveland.

Another tea party favorite, former-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is not running for office in this election, took aim at Obama at a Republican rally Saturday in Florida, saying he needed to apologize to the 14.8 million people unemployed in the U.S.

"You know, the president is now telling us that we're not thinking straight because of all the fear and frustration," Palin said. "You know Mr. President, you have it right on one point there. We are afraid, knowing that your economic policies are driving us off a cliff."