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Obama campaigning quietly from the White House

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 27 2010 10:28 a.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — Girding for the campaign's homestretch, President Barack Obama is quietly using the powers of his office to fire up a reeling Democratic Party.

Though Obama is off the campaign trail for three full days this week, he's personally targeting key Democratic constituencies from the White House, holding conference calls with union activists and campaign volunteers, and doing interviews with radio stations that draw largely black audiences. Many of these campaign events for the midterm elections are not publicized by the White House.

On Wednesday, Obama will tape an appearance on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," an irreverent comedy show with a host who aims for younger audiences and has become a prominent voice in today's politics.

The president will wrap up the week with a campaign swing through five states where Democratic candidates are locked in tight contests.

It's a homestretch strategy based on how the White House believes the president can be most effective in an election in which his name is not on the ballot but his agenda is up for debate. According to a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, nearly half of likely voters say their votes for the House are intended to send a message about Obama.

White House officials say that while they still see value in the large rallies Obama has been holding across the country this month — he'll headline three more this weekend — they also recognize that with just six days until the election, many voters have already made up their minds.

"You've identified who your voters are," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday, adding that now is the time to get those voters motivated to show up on Election Day.

Obama held a conference call with thousands of union activists Tuesday night to thank them for the hours they've spent knocking on doors and working phone banks to boost turnout for Democratic candidates.

Union officials said Obama was acknowledging the critical role that organized labor's get-out-the-vote machine will play in helping Democrats hold onto as many congressional seats as possible.

Obama will hold a similar call Wednesday with volunteers for Organizing for America, the network that grew out of his presidential campaign, to encourage them in their final get-out-the-vote efforts.

The president took a tough tone Tuesday during an interview with American Urban Radio Networks, telling Democrats their fate in the election is in their own hands.

"If we turn out at the levels we turned out in 2008, we'll win," he said. "It's pretty straightforward."

That argument will be a central part of Obama's message during his final campaign stops, beginning with a trip to Charlottesville, Va., Friday on behalf of embattled Rep. Tom Perriello. Obama will also take part in a canvassing event Saturday in Philadelphia and headline rallies in Bridgeport, Conn., and Chicago the same day.

Obama will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden for a rally in Cleveland on Sunday, his final stop before Tuesday's elections.

Though the president has made numerous campaign trips in recent weeks, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said Obama aides had long planned for the president to spend much of the final week before Election Day in Washington, noting that Obama's duties extend beyond the campaign trail.

"There's always more on the president's plate than can possibly be handled at one time," Pfeiffer said.

Officials say the president has been getting daily updates on the midterms during meetings with his senior advisers. He also gets more detailed guidance on individual races from state and local officials when he's on the road campaigning for candidates.

Though some Democratic incumbents are shying away from tough votes they took in favor of the massive economic stimulus and the health care overhaul, Obama said his party should be "clear and strong" about the steps they took to pull the country back from the brink of a depression.

"You wake up everyday, you do what you think is right, and you make sure that you're not embarrassed about what you thought was right even if it's not politically expedient," Obama said during an interview Wednesday with radio host Michael Smerconish, a conservative who endorsed Obama in the presidential campaign.

With Obama in Washington for much of this week, the White House is relying on Biden and Michelle Obama to rally Democrats on the road. Biden has campaign stops planned every day through Sunday.

The first lady is wrapping up a West Coast campaign swing in Los Angeles on Wednesday and will hit the trail again Monday with events in Las Vegas and Philadelphia.

Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Sam Hananel contributed to this report.

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