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Obama Campaigns for Democrats in Pennsylvania

U.S. President Barack Obama traveled to the northeastern state of Pennsylvania on Monday, a key political battleground important to Democrats as they hope to retain control of the U.S. Congress in November midterm elections.  The president's latest campaign trip came after he took part in a more than hour-long live television discussion about the nation's economy.

The president was the keynote speaker at two Philadelphia fund raising events for Representative Joe Sestak, a former U.S. Navy admiral turned politician who is in a tough battle against Republican Pat Toomey for Pennsylvania's open U.S. Senate seat.

It was the president's first campaign appearance for Sestak, who against White House wishes ran against and defeated Arlen Specter, the former long-time Republican senator who switched parties to join Democrats, in a primary contest earlier this year.

Public opinion surveys show Sestak trailing his opponent by between four and nine percentage points.

The two candidates are challenging each other's credentials in television ads.  Sestak portrays Toomey as an extremist conservative who is out of touch with the middle class.  Toomey's ads associates Sestak with President Obama's health care system overhaul that Republicans say they will repeal.

SESTAK AD:   "Pat Toomey, a trader on Wall Street who went to Congress and voted for Wall Street, then got rich as Wall Street's top lobbyist.   Joe Sestak served in the Navy for 31 years.  Sestak led a carrier battle group with 15,000 sailors in combat and became a three star admiral.  So for Pennsylvania, compare."

TOOMEY AD:  "Congressman Joe Sestak voted for the most extreme version of the Washington health care takeover.  The new health care law puts the government in between patients and their doctors.  It's a prescription for disaster."

President Obama's remarks for Sestak were almost identical to speeches he has given recently on the economy and in the debate over extending federal income tax cuts.  

Mr. Obama said Sestak's Republican rival represents policies that would stall progress.

"It is still fear versus hope; it's still past versus future; it's still the choice between sliding backwards or moving forward," said President Obama. "That's what this election is about; that's the choice you will face in November."

As he campaigns for Democrats in coming weeks, Mr. Obama is expected to try to overcome public skepticism about his policies.  Public opinion surveys show high disapproval ratings for his handling of the economy.

Appearing Monday on a town hall-style meeting broadcast on the CNBC television financial news network, Mr. Obama said his top priority remains doing what is right for the economy in the long-run.

Mr. Obama denied being "anti-business."  He said that although many people on Wall Street feel he has been tough on big business, the majority of Americans probably feel he has not been tough enough.   

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are scheduled to campaign heavily for Democrats until November, with stops in crucial states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada and again in Pennsylvania, where outcomes could determine control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives as well as key governorships.   

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