WASHINGTON (AP) – Increasingly confident Republicans looking to gain control of the Senate focused Sunday on President Barack Obama, trying to turn Tuesday’s election into a referendum on his presidency even though his name isn’t on the ballot.
Obama started his presidency with Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, but in 2010, in the middle of his first term, his party lost the House of Representatives in a wave of very conservative Republican tea party victories and backlash against the president’s health care overhaul, widely called “Obamacare.”
Obama’s sagging approval ratings – a few points above 40 percent – have been a major drag on Democrats in Senate races, with most of them declining presidential appearances on the campaign trail. Hurting Democrats as well is the quirk of US elections this year – the mid-point of Obama’s second term – where many incumbent Democrats or those vying for seats held by retiring Democrats are running in states that voted heavily for Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential contest.
“This is really the last chance for America to pass judgment on the Obama administration and on its policies,” Romney said in a message echoed by Republicans across the country this weekend. Democratic Party leaders still were predicting victory despite disappointing polls, relying on a technologically sophisticated voter turnout operation to convince supporters, particular young people, minorities and single women, to cast ballots.