Reporting from Washington — With early voting underway in many states across the nation, President Obama concluded a multistate campaign swing Saturday urging voters to the polls, while Sarah Palin rallied the Republican faithful in the final dash to the midterm elections.
Republicans have the wind at their back heading into this last week before the Nov. 2 election, but Democrats appear to be narrowing the enthusiasm gap in some areas as Obama campaigns furiously to reignite the movement that propelled him to office.
"Two years ago, I told you change is not easy," Obama told a large crowd at the University of Minnesota.
With his shirt sleeves rolled up and voice straining at times, he added, "I need you to keep fighting. I need you to keep working. I need you to keep believing."
The president's speeches, which were once lofty and filled with hope, now include stark warnings of the GOP's intent to roll back hard-won policies if Republicans gain control of the House, as experts say is likely, or the Senate.
Before touching down in Minneapolis, Obama warned in his weekly radio address that Republicans aim to undo the new Wall Street regulations designed to prevent another financial crisis. He signed the bill into law this year.
"Top Republicans in Congress are now beating the drum to repeal all of these reforms and consumer protections," Obama said. "That's why I think it's so important that we not take this country backward — that we don't go back to the broken system we had before."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- San Francisco) struck a similar tone Friday when she warned that Republicans, and the secret donors funding their campaigns, want to "get their hands on Granny's Social Security check." Some GOP proposals would change the Social Security system to allow younger workers to divert part of their payroll taxes to private investment accounts.
Republicans countered that the policies of the Obama administration and a Democratic-run Congress had prolonged the economic slump by impeding job growth.
Republicans are seeking to mobilize their voters and court "tea party" activists who have been among the most energized this election cycle.
"How about we make Nov. 2 freedom day and we take it back for the little guy?" Palin asked to cheers at a Republican rally in Orlando, Fla.
Sen. John Thune of South Dakota took aim directly at Obama's recent stump speeches in delivering the Republican weekly address.
"The president likes to say that when you want to drive forward, you put your car in D, and when you want to go in reverse, you put it in R," Thune said. "It's a clever line, but when you're speeding toward a cliff, you don't want to keep the car in drive."
The ground game in the days ahead can make or break campaigns, especially in hard-fought battleground states where control of Congress hangs in the balance.
Senate races in Nevada, Washington and California could decide whether Republicans gain the 10 seats needed to be the majority in the Senate — a difficult, but not impossible, outcome. It is no surprise that Obama stumped in all three states last week.
With campaign donations to Democrats failing to keep pace with the unusual influx of cash to Republicans, Obama is seeking to rally those he once inspired to do the hard work of knocking on doors and encouraging friends and family to go to the polls.
"All of you got to get out," he said Saturday to cheers in Minneapolis.
Then, he dashed out for a Democratic Party fundraiser, where tickets cost as much as $50,000 per couple.