NEW YORK — Less than a month away from the midterm elections, President Barack Obama's campaign schedule is getting off to a late start.
Even while he raises money for Democrats this week from coast to coast, Obama will steer clear of any public campaign events with Democratic candidates, which would hand Republicans easy opportunities to saddle their opponents with Obama's own political baggage. The White House says Obama will start appearing with candidates as early as next week, but as of yet, no events have been announced.
Obama headed first on Tuesday to New York, where police shut down streets as Obama's motorcade rolled through Manhattan to a pair of fundraisers for the Democratic Party. Roughly two dozen donors paid up to $32,400 to attend a closed-door discussion with Obama, with another 250 donors writing $1,000 checks to see Obama at a reception. Later, Obama was to board Marine One for the short flight to Greenwich, Connecticut, for an event to help Senate Democrats.
The spree begins a week of events intended to shore up the party committees working to keep the Senate in Democratic hands, limit GOP gains in the House and pick up as many governor's seats as possible. On Thursday, Obama begins a three-day fundraising swing through California.
All those events will take place in private, sparing the candidates on the ballot from a presidential photo op that could wind up in a Republican campaign ad. Just 4 in 10 Americans approved of Obama's job performance in an Associated Press-GfK poll this summer.
Obama has promised this year to go all out for Democrats, and he's already held dozens of private Democratic fundraisers. But the White House says Obama's public campaign schedule — initially expected to pick up in late September — had to be pushed back as the president juggled a dizzying array of crises, ranging from the Islamic State group to Ebola.
Obama still plans to spend a few days a week for the rest of October outside Washington, helping rally support for Democrats in key races, aides said, with his schedule ramping up in the final days before the Nov. 4 elections. He'll also appeal to voters through radio ads, robo-calls and digital advertising aimed at revving up minorities and young voters whose sky-high turnout in 2008 helped fuel Obama's win.
"We've got our work cut out for us. Most of our Democratic voters aren't aware there's even an election on Nov. 4," Obama said in a video for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
With voters opposed to Obama in conservative-leaning states like Arkansas and Alaska where Democrats are fighting their toughest Senate races, Obama will focus on just a handful of states where he can potentially help. He will focus more on gubernatorial races, and he is expected to campaign in Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, to name a few. He will spend little time on individual House races.
As Obama carefully weighs which races to take on, other big-name Democrats are hitting the trail with gusto.
Vice President Joe Biden kicked off a four-day, six-city campaign tour Monday with a visit to Los Angeles, where he raised money for Bruce Braley, the Democrat running for Senate in Iowa. On Tuesday, Biden was to appear at rallies in California for candidates for House, mayoral and statewide candidates, before appearing Wednesday in Portland at a rally with Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. On Thursday, Biden will be in Seattle to give a boost to Sen. Maria Cantwell's re-election bid. And next week, he'll head to Florida to rally support for former Gov. Charlie Crist in his fight to reclaim his old office.
First lady Michelle Obama has kept up a heavy campaign schedule, with stops last week in Massachusetts and Maine and visits this week to Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Iowa to help with Senate and gubernatorial races. And Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced plans to campaign for Democratic candidates in at least 10 key states before Election Day.
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