Obama sharpens campaign rhetoric as approval ratings fall

President Obama sharpened his campaign rhetoric against Republicans on Tuesday as the White House projected confidence about Democrats' retaining control of Congress. 

The president accused Republicans of wishing “amnesia” on voters as part of his warning to voters against returning the GOP to power as Republicans opened their widest lead to date over Democrats in a generic ballot matchup. 

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“Basically what this campaign is coming down to is, between now and November, they are betting that all of you will come down with a case of amnesia,” Obama said at a fundraiser for Sen. Patty Murray (D) in Washington state this afternoon. 

The president also offered specific criticisms of Murray’s GOP opponent, a rarity for the president. Obama said Republican Dino Rossi’s call for the Wall Street bill to be repealed is “strange.” 

The sharper tone came amid new poll numbers showing Obama’s approval falling with voters. 

A Gallup daily tracking poll reported for the first time Tuesday that a majority of Americans — 51 percent — disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job. Obama’s 42 percent approval rating in the poll marks the lowest point in his presidency. 

A separate Gallup poll on Tuesday showed Republicans with their widest margin over Democrats to date in a test of generic congressional candidates.

That poll, conducted last week, showed that 50 percent of voters would prefer a nameless GOP candidate, compared to the 43 percent who would elect a generic Democrat. 

The Cook Political Report said Tuesday that 72 Democratic-held House seats were rated leaning Democrat or more vulnerable, more than enough to put control of the House in play. 

Obama on Wednesday will continue a barn-burning tour across the country in support of his party and several endangered Senate Democrats in particular.

So far this week, Obama has held fundraisers for the Wisconsin Democratic Party; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in California; and in Washington state for the endangered Murray.

The president has campaign appearances scheduled for Wednesday in the battleground states of Ohio and Florida, which will both be crucial to control of the House. 

Three Ohio seats now held by Democrats are seen as leaning GOP by Real Clear Politics, while another two are considered toss-ups. In Florida, four seats now held by Democrats are listed as toss-ups. 

A popular president could give those candidates a boost, and Murray said she was excited to have Obama hitting the trail on her behalf. 

But polls suggest Obama may be able to help his party only so much, and some Democrats have signaled they’d rather have the president stay away. 

Sen. Michael Bennet (D) has said he'll “have to see” whether he wants Obama to join him on the campaign trail in Colorado, and Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) has run ads openly distancing himself from Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters on Air Force One that Obama “enjoys making the case” that the 2010 midterm election is a choice between moving forward with his administration’s policies, or turning to the past, as the White House puts it. 

Burton also said the president is confident despite polls that show his popularity has taken a beating, and that his party could be in for a thumping. 

“The president thinks that this election is a choice between the policies that move our country forward or the policies that got us to the crisis that we're in right now," Burton said. “But he’s confident that, given that choice in the voting booths in November, that Democrats will be successful, and he does think that we will hold on to both the House and the Senate.”