Obama heads to the West aiming to boost Democrats’ prospects

AP-Barack Obama
President Barack Obama waves from the top of the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Md., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. Obama is heading to Nevada to boost Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and help Democrats in their bid to retake control of the Senate. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama was looking to boost Hillary Clinton’s prospects and help Democrats in their bid to retake Senate control, scheduling a campaign stop Sunday in tightly contested Nevada before headlining party fundraisers in California.

Obama’s recent itinerary has focused on competitive White House states that also have close Senate races. In Nevada, the president is trying to help Democrats retain the seat of the Senate’s top Democrat, Harry Reid, who is serving out his fifth term before retiring.

The president was scheduled to speak at a rally at a Las Vegas-area high school for Clinton and Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, a former state attorney general whose opponent is GOP Rep. Joe Heck.

Late Sunday, Obama planned to speak at an event in San Diego to benefit the organization that leads party efforts to election Democrats to the House. His schedule included fundraisers in Los Angeles on Monday and Tuesday.

Polls indicate that the presidential and Senate races in Nevada are extremely tight. Reid’s seat is considered the only one Republicans could reasonably flip to their side this election. Outside groups have spent tens of millions of dollars trying to influence the outcome.

Heck, now in his third House term, is trying to distance himself from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Two weeks ago, Heck said: “I cannot, in good conscience, continue to support him nor can I vote for Hillary Clinton.”

But Democrats are calling it too little, too late. Cortez Masto said in the recent Senate debate, “Donald Trump’s ship is sinking, and Congressman Heck is scurrying off it.”

Heck was one of the first GOP candidates to withdraw his backing from Trump after a recently released video showed Trump making sexually inappropriate comments about women back in 2005. Heck’s decision could help him appeal to moderate voters, but he risks alienating some of Trump’s ardent supporters.

Obama is working to tie Republican candidates to Trump every chance he gets. “I mean, I know that some of them now are walking away. But why did it take you this long?” Obama said during a speech in Miami this past week when he criticized Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Democrats need to pick up five seats to gain the majority in the Senate, or four if they hang onto control of the White House. The vice president casts tie-breaking votes in the Senate.

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