WOONSOCKET, R.I. — President Barack Obama attacked Republicans with gusto Monday as he plunged into a final week of midterm election campaigning, but his party's prognosis remained darkened by the feeble economy and his itinerary was designed largely to minimize losses.
Nor was his greeting totally friendly in Rhode Island where Obama has pointedly declined to endorse his party's candidate for governor.
Obama can "take his endorsement and shove it," declared Democrat Frank Caprio, battling Republican-turned-independent Lincoln Chafee in a gubernatorial race rated tight in the polls. Chafee endorsed Obama during the 2008 campaign for the White House.
In a little more than five hours in the state, Obama was booked for a factory tour and for a pair of fundraisers that party officials said would bring in $500,000.
He said Republicans had driven the economy into a ditch and then stood by and criticized while Democrats pulled it out. Now that progress has been made, he said, "we can't have special interests sitting shotgun. We gotta have middle class families up in front. We don't mind the Republicans joining us. They can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in back."
Democrats relied on more than the president's time to boost their chances in the final days of the campaign. There was the matter of federal funds, too, in the form of hundreds of millions in grants announced during the day to provide high speed rail service in California, between Chicago and Iowa, and elsewhere. Administration officials left it to Democratic lawmakers to make the announcements, and they did, stressing the job-creating potential of the expansions.
Eight days before the election, the principal uncertainty concerned the size and scope of anticipated Democratic losses in the House, the Senate, governor's races and state legislatures.11 comments on this story
An Associated Press-GfK Poll showed that perhaps one-third of all voters have yet to firmly settle on their choices. But that wasn't encouraging for the Democrats, either. Some 45 percent of them prefer the Republican candidate for the House, and 38 percent like the Democrat.
The president arrived as official figures showed more than 6.5 million ballots already have been cast in the 25 states where early voting is permitted or where absentees have been counted, underscoring the importance of get-out-the-vote programs that now begin long before Election Day.
Democrats have invested heavily in such efforts and are counting on them to help tip close races their way in states like Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces tea party-backed challenger Sharron Angle. Republicans are counting on campaign enthusiasm — polls agree their voters are more eager to cast ballots than Democrats — as well as their own get-out-the-vote efforts.
Even Democrats concede Republicans are poised for significant gains in Congress, and GOP officials are particularly optimistic about their chances for taking control of the House.