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Nov 1, 2014 6:18 AM

As election closes in, Obama on center stage

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) Clashing views from the White House and Republicans about the nation's trajectory are closing out the final week before Election Day.

President Barack Obama on Saturday emphasized economic growth during his tenure while the Senate's Republican leader depicted events he says seem to be spinning out of the White House's control.

Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in their parties' radio and Internet addresses, did find some common ground.

They agreed that many Americans' wages are still falling behind. But Obama blamed Congress for not acting on measures such as the minimum wage, and McConnell faulted Obama for policies he said have failed.

"We've got to harness this momentum and make the right choices so that everyone who works hard can get ahead," Obama said. He stressed the need for policies that make the economy friendlier to women.

"In difficult times, the American people expect real leadership from Washington," the Kentucky senator countered. "What they don't need are more unworkable ideas that often make the problem worse."

The sparring heading into Tuesday's voting underscored the prominent role that Obama has taken in the midterm elections even though he is not on the ballot. Republicans have tried to make the election about the president, especially in states with Republican majorities where Obama's unpopularity runs deeper than in the country as a whole.

While many Democratic candidates have sought to distance themselves from the president, Obama has been enlisted to mobilize core Democratic voters either through campaign rallies over the last week or less overtly through targeted radio ads, mail and Internet messages.

His radio address echoed his Friday speech in Rhode Island, calling on Congress to pass equal pay and family leave legislation. The message was a direct appeal to female voters, whom Democrats need to energize and get to the polls if they want to overcome Republican advantages in several states.

McConnell argued that Obama and the Democratic Party have been in power for six years, though he didn't mention that Republicans have controlled the House since 2011.

"They got the chance to pass nearly everything their ideology would allow," he said. "But six years on, their policies haven't gotten the country moving again. And it's clear that more of the same isn't going to work."

Republicans need to gain a net of six seats to control the Senate during Obama's final two years in office.

In other developments:



An outpouring of early votes soared past 15 million ballots across 31 states on Friday, enough to give hopeful Republicans as well as nervous Democrats cause for optimism heading into the final weekend of a campaign with control of the Senate, a new House and 36 governorships at stake.

Republicans pointed to a strong early vote performance in Iowa as evidence that Joni Ernst was a step ahead in her bid to capture a Senate seat for the GOP. In Georgia, Democrats said a strong early turnout by African-Americans in the counties around Atlanta was a good sign for Michelle Nunn, running for a seat long out of the party's reach.

Republicans appeared assured of gains in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. Democratic incumbents in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado and New Hampshire also faced difficult tests. Among Republican Senate incumbents, the ones facing trouble were McConnell and Kansas' Pat Roberts. Races in Louisiana and Georgia appeared headed for runoffs.



Mail from Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group, is turning up in Arkansas, telling recipients their "voting record may be examined for completeness" after the election. Democrats called it dishonest. Party spokesman Patrick Burgwinkle said it showed out-of-state billionaires are determined to elect Republican Rep. Tom Cotton over Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor "no matter how dishonest the tactic."



Senate Democrats are leaning on a $10 million loan they took in early October to sustain their hopes of staying in the majority, and face the prospect of possible runoff elections in Louisiana in December and Georgia in January. Even so, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has gone into the red in each of the last three election cycles and managed to win each time. It ended 2012 with $16 million in red ink, finished 2010 with almost $9 million in debt and wrapped up 2008 owing close to $11 million.


Associated Press writers David Espo and Philip Elliott in Washington, Bill Barrow in Atlanta, Kelly Kissel in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Catherine Lucey in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.


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