Obama pitches for himself, others

HENDERSON, Nev. -- Before he asked the crowd of 15,000 people filling the local high school football stadium here Saturday morning to vote for him, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama had another candidate to recommend.

"We need a little help in Congress. I expect everybody who is in the 3rd Congressional District to send Dina Titus to Congress," he said. He was referring to this state's most heated House race, in which Titus, a university professor, is trying to unseat three-term Republican Rep. Jon Porter.

It's a measure of the Democrats' confidence that Obama has been playing pitchman for his party's House and Senate candidates as he hopscotches across the country on the final weekend of the campaign.

Obama insists he does not regard his own election as a foregone conclusion. "Don't for a minute think this election is over," he warns his supporters at every stop.

Nonetheless, the Illinois senator has begun to turn his attention to expanding his party's majority in the Congress, a place he'll have to cajole into supporting his agenda if he's elected president.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who warmed up his home state crowd here for Obama. Afterward, he said that he believes voters drawn to the polls by the Democratic presidential candidate will help the party's candidates vying to take over Senate seats in Republican strongholds.

"He's got those long coattails, like Lincoln used to wear," quipped Reid of Obama, referring to the 19th century frock coats favored by Abraham Lincoln, the nation's 16th president.

Among the Senate contests where Reid said an Obama surge could make a difference for Democrats:

•Georgia: Obama just began advertising in the state this week. Democrat Jim Martin, a Vietnam veteran and former state legislator, is challenging first-term Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

•North Carolina: Obama is focusing considerable resources on trying to win the Tar Heel State. Democrat Kay Hagen, a veteran state senator, is mounting a strong challenge to Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

•Oregon: Incumbent Republican Gordon Smith is fighting to keep his seat in a Democratic leaning state. The Democratic challenger is Jeff Merkley, speaker of the state House.

•Minnesota: Comedian-turned-political commentator Al Franken is trying unseat Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

•Mississippi: Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, is running against Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican appointed to replace Sen. Trent Lott after he resigned last year.

•New Hampshire: Polls show Republican Sen. John Sununu trailing former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

Democrats have a 51-49 edge in the current Senate because two Independents side with the 49 Democrats. Winning 60 seats would give the party the ability to quash filibusters, a parliamentary maneuver that the minority Republican party can use to block legislation. "I know I'll have more Democratic senators," said Reid. "I just don't know how many."

Reid described himself as "cautiously optimistic" about Obama's chances in Nevada, where President Bush eked out a 50%-48% win over Democrat John Kerry in 2004.

Later on Saturday, Obama visited Colorado, another state that went narrowly for Bush for years ago. In Pueblo, where 16,500 gathered, Obama tried to turn the news that Vice President Dick Cheney has endorsed his Republican rival, John McCain, to his favor.

"I'd like to congratulate Senator McCain on this endorsement because he really earned it," Obama told a crowd gathered at an outdoor rally. "With John McCain you get a twofer: George Bush's economic policy and Dick Cheney's foreign policy — but that's a risk we cannot afford to take. "

In a measure of the vice president's low popularity, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds responded to Obama's remarks by trying to tie Cheney to the Democratic nominee. "Barack Obama and Dick Cheney aren't just cousins, they've shared support for the Bush energy policy and the out-of-control spending that John McCain has fought to oppose," Bounds said in a statement emailed to reporters.

Earlier, on the airport tarmac at Pueblo, he was met by his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha. The family will be travelling together on Sunday through Ohio, the state that put Bush back in the White House for a second term in 2004.

At a midday stop in Cleveland, Obama is to be joined by rock icon Bruce Springsteen, whose song The Rising has become a theme for the Democrat's campaign.