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Democrats map out midterm campaign strategy for Obama

Still, one senior administration official said: "This is not Bush in 2006 or Clinton in '94, when the party tried to run away from incumbents. That's how you get beat. We don't see people running away from him."

Arkansas is the most obvious place for Obama to avoid, several Democrats said. He has endorsed Lincoln but has no plans to help her on the ground there. Asked whether Lincoln would like a presidential visit, Katie Laning Niebaum, a campaign spokeswoman, said: "President Obama hasn't appeared in Arkansas since 2006, but Senator Lincoln has let him know that he is always welcome."

"It is much more important for him to talk about his economic policies and what he's trying to get accomplished -- and to solicit support from the electorate nationwide-- than it is for him to campaign for congressional and senatorial candidates at this point," said Democratic consultant Steve Murphy, who is working on several races, including Lincoln's. "Of course, we wouldn't mind him showing up at a fundraiser now and then."

Other Democratic consultants working on races in swing states lauded the White House for using Obama judiciously, saying that they would prefer for him to achieve solid results than tour the nation on a permanent campaign.

But several strategists, speaking on the condition of anonymity to be critical of a White House whose help they need, said they wished Obama would take a stronger role in defining the advantages of the new health-care law and bringing that message to toss-up states and districts.

In Florida, Democratic candidates could use White House help in selling the health-care program to senior citizens, who are wary of purported Medicare cuts and are also the most important voting bloc, one consultant said.

Asked why the president chose to head to Maine -- a state with two Republican senators, neither of whom has an election on the horizon -- senior administration officials said it was in part because Obama had not been to the swing state as president.

And, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said, "because the elections aren't in March or April."

"There's a thousand years before the next elections. You guys will have plenty of time to go cover them," Gibbs told a reporter. "The president is not focused on what happens the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. We're focused on this Monday and this Tuesday."

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