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Senator skipping Obama fundraiser for his campaign

July 9, 2014

DENVER (AP) — A Senate Democrat in a tough re-election race skipped a fundraiser that President Barack Obama held on his behalf Wednesday, highlighting the unease of some vulnerable Democrats in being linked with an increasingly unpopular president.

Colorado Sen. Mark Udall’s campaign said in a last-minute switch he was staying back in Washington for a vote. Republicans quickly pointed to the news as another sign of trouble for Obama, who has been burdened by a botched launch to his signature health care program and widespread frustration with the economy.

Udall is one of several Democratic senators at risk of losing their seat in November’s midterm congressional elections, putting Senate control within Republican reach for the first time during Obama’s presidency. Losing control of the Senate would further undermine Obama’s chances of passing any major legislation in his final two years in office. The Republicans already control the House and are expected to retain their majority.

Obama made no mention of Udall’s unexpected absence, but cast the senator’s re-election as crucial to helping him move forward on his agenda during the remaining years of his presidency.

“Mark Udall is a serious person who is trying to do the right thing,” he told donors packed into a Denver hotel ballroom. “He’s not an ideologue. Doesn’t agree with me on everything. But he believes in the core idea that should be what Democrats are all about: the idea that if you work hard, you should be able to make it.”

While Obama has called keeping the Senate one of his top priorities, he is limited in how much direct involvement he can have in helping the most at-risk members of his party. Like Udall, most are from swing states or conservative-leaning states like Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina, where close ties with the president may be more of a hindrance than a help.

Udall’s campaign says the senator plans to stay in Washington to vote on Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He had already been planning to limit his appearances with the president. The fundraiser is off limits to news cameras. And Udall’s campaign announced earlier in the week that the senator would not attend the president’s economic speech in Denver Wednesday morning, ensuring that there would be no photos of the two men together.

Republicans chortled at the news that Udall would miss the second event. Alex Siciliano, a spokesman for Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, who is opposing Udall, said that now that the senator “has been called out on being a rubber stamp for President Obama’s agenda he has decided to hide in Washington, D.C. instead of face voters back in his home state.”

Tickets to Wednesday’s fundraiser cost up to $15,000 per couple, with the money split between Udall’s campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. While Obama has attended numerous events for the DSCC, Wednesday’s luncheon marks the first time he has appeared directly on behalf of an endangered Democrat.

While Obama’s approval rating has slipped into the low 40s, he remains a prolific fundraiser for Democrats. And with the Colorado Senate race expected to be one of this year’s most expensive, Udall wants to maintain a financial edge over his challenger.

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Associated Press writer Charles Babington in Washington contributed to this report.

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Follow Julie Pace on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC and Nicholas Riccardi at http://twitter.com/NickRiccardi

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