Dems hope 2008 first-time voters return this year

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's political operation is going door-to-door this weekend in more than a thousand cities to try to persuade the voters who helped elect him to turn out for Democrats in the midterm elections.

The Democratic National Committee and Obama's political arm, Organizing for America, say more than 16,000 volunteers plan to talk to first-time voters who cast ballots in 2008 but could stay home this year without the president on the ballot. National Democrats say those voters are crucial to help turn back Republican momentum as the public has soured on Obama and his party's agenda.

"Turning out just a small percentage of these voters above historical averages could make a crucial difference in close elections this fall," Organizing for America Director Mitch Stewart said. "That effort begins in earnest this Saturday."

Obama's grass-roots organization has struggled to keep the energy from the president's campaign. Although Obama's brand remains potent and its e-mail list unmatched, many Democrats worry the machine may be too Obama-centric to help candidates down the ballot.


Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk is on contrition tour after exaggerating his military record. The list of untruths goes back to his Senate campaign's first ad of his head-to-head race against Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

In that ad, Kirk claims he served "in" Iraq — something he corrected during an interview about his military record with WJBC this week.

"I have deployed as a reservist twice to Afghanistan, I've been to Afghanistan other times as a member of Congress," he said.

"And I have never served in Iraq as a military man, I have been to Iraq as a congressman, and then as part of operation Northern Watch, I deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, where we supported the no-fly zones, so we were flying over Iraq. But we didn't set boots in Iraq."

Kirk, a Navy reservist, apologized during a string of interviews this week in an attempt to blunt Democrats' criticism. But there's plenty of material to ding the five-term member of Congress.

In a letter from his congressional office, he also claimed he was a veteran of the first Persian Gulf war — although he didn't participate — and wrongly claimed he was fired on during patrols over Iraq's no-fly zone. He claimed he won Navy's award for intelligence officer of the year, an award that went to his unit instead of him personally.

And Kirk has said that when he's on active duty, he commands the Pentagon war room. That's also not true.


Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon is learning the hard way that a clinical answer may not be the best political one.

In an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the former wrestling executive stated that more research is needed on steroids — despite numerous studies already linking their use to liver, cardiac and reproductive damage. While a call for more research is factually defensible, it's a tough argument for a candidate whose family business has been dogged by steroid allegations for decades.

"There's some evidence sometimes of muscle disease or cardiac disease, but it's really hard to know because you didn't know the condition of the performer's heart, or whatever, prior to," she said. "So I still don't think we know the long-term effects of steroids. They are continuing to study it more and more, but I don't believe there are a lot of studies out there today that are conclusive."

McMahon's family company, World Wrestling Entertainment, was a rich target for her former Republican challenger, Rob Simmons. Expect Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to make it an issue too.

McMahon's spokesman said Friday that her answer was true.

"She's obviously opposed to illegal drug use. ... She believes steroid use can have long-term negatives effects on the body and those effects exacerbate with abuse," Ed Patru said.


President Bill Clinton is pushing Sen. Blanche Lincoln's candidacy as she heads into the final days of her runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

A new ad shows footage of Clinton at a Lincoln rally last week where he described her as a victim of unions, who have strongly backed Halter with volunteers, organization and television ads.

"Here is an article from The Washington Post. It says national unions made a decision a few months ago, that they wanted to make Sen. Blanche Lincoln the, quote, poster child for what happens when a Democrat crosses them," Clinton said.

He then suggested those unions were playing unfairly in Arkansas, the state he twice led as governor.

"This is about using you and manipulating your votes," he said. "If you want to be Arkansas' advocate, vote for somebody who will fight for you. Vote for Blanche Lincoln."

The ad starts this weekend and will air statewide.


Quick hits:

— Ahead of Tuesday's primary, former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman has regained her substantial lead over state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in California's Republican gubernatorial primary, according to a survey released Friday. The Field Poll found that Whitman has the support of 51 percent of likely Republican voters compared with 25 percent support for Poizner.

— Sen. John McCain is campaigning with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a one-time rival in the 2008 presidential primaries. Romney's visit to Arizona marks his second time campaigning for McCain. He faces a tough primary challenge from former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

— A Republican lawmaker trying to become South Carolina's first female governor says she would resign if she were elected and anyone then proved she had an extramarital affair. State Rep. Nikki Haley said Friday she knows there will never be proof to support two allegations of infidelity.

— Republican Tim Pawlenty will appear on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" next Thursday as he builds up to a possible presidential run. The two-term Minnesota governor has said he will reveal his future plans early next year.


Associated Press writers Juliet Williams in Sacramento and Seanna Adcox in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.

Washington - Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.