White House puts Obama's brand behind McAuliffe

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By JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is putting the power of President Barack Obama's brand behind Democrat Terry McAuliffe's quest for the Virginia governor's mansion, a play-it-safe move in the final days of a race in which the Democrat is enjoying a comfortable lead.

Two days before Election Day, Obama will head across the Potomac River to campaign for McAuliffe on Sunday in northern Virginia, a Democratic-leaning region where McAuliffe is hoping for heavy turnout from voters who supported Obama. The next day, Vice President Joe Biden is making the trip, joining McAuliffe as he kicks off his final-hours, get-out-the-vote effort.

And first lady Michelle Obama, who campaigned for McAuliffe over the summer, is lending her voice to radio ads McAuliffe's campaign is airing statewide, suggesting a vote for McAuliffe will help promote the goals her husband is pursuing in the White House.

"We all worked so hard last year to re-elect Barack as president," Mrs. Obama says in the ad. "Whether it's building good schools, or creating good jobs, or ensuring women can make their own decisions about their health, the issues we were fighting for then matter just as much in Virginia today."

For Obama, it's a low-risk opportunity to show he's a team player, willing to invest his time to help Democrats in a competitive state with major importance to the Democratic Party. Obama is also actively raising money for Democrats ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, fulfilling a pledge to play a bigger role building his party in his second term.

But the visit also plays into the frustration of some Democrats, who complain that while Obama is an effective fundraiser, he's reluctant to put his name on the line for individual candidates unless it's clear the Democrat is poised to win.

McAuliffe has built a double-digit lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli, whose standing has diminished in the final weeks before Tuesday's election. Cuccinelli has all but stopped working to win over moderate voters, focusing on turning out his conservative base and scaling back his television advertising.

Obama has made no similar effort in New Jersey, the other state holding a gubernatorial race this year. Polls consistently have shown Republican Gov. Chris Christie with a 20-plus point lead over his Democratic opponent.

Obama did lend a hand to another high-profile Democrat on Friday, when he shook hands and hugged children at a Brooklyn eatery with New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio while in town for other events. De Blasio has a commanding lead in the polls.

Cuccinelli sought to use Obama's visit against McAuliffe by playing to voters who dislike Obama's health care law. "The move makes official what we have already known to be true: McAuliffe's unwavering support for the president's signature legislative achievement, Obamacare," Cuccinelli said in a statement.

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Associated Press writers Nedra Pickler and Philip Elliott contributed to this report.

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