Barack Obama

Obama seeks momentum, funds for Senate allies

DENVER (Reuters) - President Barack Obama got an early start campaigning for vulnerable congressional allies on Thursday, flying to Colorado to raise money for a lawmaker he hopes will help Democrats keep a majority in the U.S. Senate.

Obama, whose popularity has dropped substantially since his inauguration last year, hopes to regain political momentum for his fellow Democrats ahead of November elections that could change the balance of power in Congress.

Democrats are growing worried they may lose their big majorities in both houses of Congress because of deep public dissatisfaction with the economy, unemployment and Obama’s agenda on healthcare and other issues.

At a fundraiser for Senator Michael Bennet, Obama said his administration’s efforts, including passing the $787 billion stimulus package, had helped prevent an economic depression.

“He was here by my side in Denver a year ago when we signed the Recovery Act into law,” Obama said of Bennet, recalling an event in Colorado where the stimulus package was made law.

Obama promised not to drop healthcare reform, an issue that has become a tougher political sell, and said Bennet would help the effort.

“He understands we cannot walk away from it and we will not walk away,” Obama said.

Obama carried Colorado in the 2008 presidential election against Republican John McCain, but the state regularly swings between both parties.

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Bennet was appointed to the Senate last year to succeed Ken Salazar, who became Interior secretary. Bennet has been successful raising money but faces a primary fight from a former Colorado House speaker, Andrew Romanoff.

Obama next heads to Nevada to campaign for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who faces a tough re-election battle.

The president’s record so far in helping fellow party members win elections is poor. Democrats lost a special Senate election in Massachusetts last month and gubernatorial contests last November in Virginia and New Jersey despite Obama appearances in each state.

Analysts said the president, despite some popularity problems, remained an asset for incumbent lawmakers, at least in helping to put money into their campaign chests.

“All he can do now is help them fundraise,” said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“Judging by Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, he can’t produce many votes,” Sabato said.

Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, editing by Alan Elsner