By Sam Youngman - 10/26/10 01:36 AM EDT
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — President Obama, working overtime to blunt his party's losses on Election Day next week, told a Democratic candidate here to "run scared."
Obama also attracted criticism during the trip for not endorsing his party's candidate for governor in Rhode Island. The fundraisers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) continued a campaign swing that began last week on the West Coast.
Throughout the evening, Obama warned Democrats that it is going to be a "difficult" election year, but he specifically told Providence Mayor David Cicilline, the man running for retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy's seat, to "run scared."
"Don't take it for granted," Obama said told a small gathering. "Run scared."
All told, the president raised about $500,000 for the DCCC and Cicilline's campaign, but Obama also angered some Democrats before he even set foot in the state.
The president's decision not to endorse Democratic gubernatorial candidate Frank Caprio caused some heartburn for the White House ahead of Obama's trip.
Caprio told a Rhode Island radio station that Obama could take his endorsement and "shove it."
White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters on Air Force One that Obama decided to stay out of the race because his "good friend" — former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee — is also running.
A number of Democrats were livid that the president declined to endorse the Democratic candidate in what appears to be a close race.
"Would Bill Clinton have ever done this? Never," said one Democratic strategist. "The president may think you don't endorse when it's a friend, but there are a lot of his real Democratic friends who will lose because they backed their friend — the president.
"The worst part is that they just sent a message to every Democrat in the country that even the president doesn't care enough to support good Democrats like Caprio. It's just unbelievable."
But Burton said Obama made the decision "out of respect for his friend, Lincoln Chafee."
"We’re entering the final week of the election season, and emotions are running pretty high," Burton said. "So I don’t think anybody is surprised to see people feeling particularly strongly about these races."
With just more than a week to go before the elections and polls continuing to show Democrats in peril, Obama is in a "fighting mood," Burton said, and the president is confident his message is getting through.
The president continued to defend his policies and criticize Republican obstruction, and he repeated his attacks on special-interest spending funded by unknown donors, calling it a "powerful force."
"If you’re in a competitive House race right now, if you’re in a state like Colorado and you just watch this stuff, I mean, it is just a blizzard of negative ads," Obama said. "And so we’re going to have to do our best to match that, mostly just by telling the truth. But also we’re going to have to have enough money to be able to get that truth out."