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Campaign swing takes Obama to West Coast

By Ed Henry, CNN Senior White House Correspondent
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Obama: Republicans hope you'll forget
  • Obama adviser David Axelrod: "We want to make sure people are mobilized and energized"
  • Axelrod denies midterm election will be a referendum on Obama and his leadership
  • Obama seeks to shore up embattled senators from California, Nevada, Washington
  • President Obama is on a five-state, four-day tour

Seattle, Washington (CNN) -- President Obama will wake up in Seattle on Thursday amid a four-day, multi-state tour aimed at propping up embattled Senate incumbents in Washington, California and Nevada.

Obama will hold a rally and fundraiser with Sen. Patty Murray, who is fighting for her political life against Republican Dino Rossi.

The president also will hold a backyard economic event focused on women, a not-so-subtle appeal to ensure Murray's voters come home.

Top White House adviser David Axelrod pointed to the president's legislative accomplishments on pay equity and health care to assert these issues are "part of our case of the future we're trying to build."

He added Republicans have a much different philosophy and this is "one place where going backward will have a dilatory effect" on key issues affecting women.

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But Obama also will mix in some fundraising for House Democrats and stumping for two gubernatorial candidates as he lays out a broader party message that Axelrod said will try to "focus people on the choice in front of them" all across the nation.

"Our mission is to get people energized and understanding there are real stakes in this election," Axelrod said ahead of Obama's trip that begins Wednesday evening in Oregon and Washington before continuing on to California and Nevada, and then ending Saturday in Minnesota.

Axelrod signaled that Obama's message will be similar to what he's been saying for months, with the senior adviser asserting the president's policies have "stopped the free fall" in the economy while Republicans want to go back to policies that "visited disaster on American families" in the Bush years.

He noted the president has made progress on reforms for health care, Wall Street, credit cards and student loans, "all of which would be jeopardized if the backward-looking Republican agenda" wins out.

"It is natural and easy in a midterm election, particularly in difficult times, to treat the election as a referendum on current conditions," Axelrod said. "That's not what it is. This is a choice between two fundamentally different approaches."

He began the trip in Oregon on Wednesday night with a fundraiser and rally for former Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is in a tight battle with the Republican nominee, former NBA player Chris Dudley, for his old job.

Axelrod said that "nobody has as big a megaphone as the president" and that he plans to use it aggressively to lay out the stakes for November 2, during the trip.

"We want to make sure people are mobilized and energized," Axelrod said at a White House briefing with reporters, adding the president always knew it would be a tough political year, but "we're out there and we're scrapping and fighting."

Axelrod said the president will make clear the nation has been able to "come through two very difficult years" because of his leadership, and he believes Republicans will take the country backward.

"We walked into an unmitigated disaster," Axelrod said at the White House. "It took almost a decade to get into the mess we're in, and it's taking longer to get out" than anyone wants.

But he added, "These guys have made clear they want to roll back the clock, and we're fighting to stop them."

Axelrod also rejected any suggestion the election will be a referendum on Obama and his leadership.

"Elections are not referendums," he said. "Elections are choices, and the choice is very clear."

After Seattle, Obama will move on to California, where he has a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in San Francisco as well as a DNC rally in Los Angeles for Sen. Barbara Boxer and former Gov. Jerry Brown.

Boxer has opened a slight lead against Republican Carly Fiorina, as has Brown in his effort to win his old job back in a nasty battle with Republican Meg Whitman. National Democrats are still watching these races closely to ensure they don't slip out of their hands.

On Friday, Obama moves on to Las Vegas, Nevada, for a DNC rally aimed at bailing out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and helping other Democrats. Reid is stuck in the mid-40s in most polls despite months painting his Republican opponent, Tea Party-friendly Sharron Angle, as an extremist.

The visits to help shore up Murray, Boxer and Reid immediately follow Vice President Joe Biden's trip this week to hit the same states, and first lady Michelle Obama is campaigning next week with Murray and Boxer. All this attention is a sure sign the White House sees these three races as pivotal to hopes of keeping the Senate under Democratic control.

Asked if the president is trying to build a firewall out West to offset expected Senate losses elsewhere, Axelrod demurred, saying, "Those are obviously important races."

"I believe we'll win those races," he added.

On Saturday, Obama heads to Minnesota for a rally to support former Sen. Mark Dayton, who is running for governor. The president also will headline a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee before heading back to the White House on Saturday evening.

In addition, the president will attend another congressional campaign panel fundraiser Monday in Rhode Island before taking four days off from campaigning to tend to other business at the White House.

Aides said Obama is planning one last push the final weekend before the election. They are not yet releasing the states the president will visit as they analyze where he can help the most.