ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — President Joe Biden set off on a personal final-day campaign sprint Thursday that reflects Democrats’ major concerns ahead of next week’s midterm elections, appealing to voters in New Mexico. to defeat “reckless and irresponsible” Republicans and re-elect Democrats. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

New Mexico is usually a safe Democratic area, but Lujan Grisham faces a determined challenge from his Republican opponent, former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti.

At a rally chaired by the president, he warned that Democrats in the state were “a little behind” but assured supporters that “we’re moving fast.”

Indeed, the top spot facing Lujan Grisham portends trouble for Democrats in many parts of the country as Biden embarks on a multistate campaign focused largely on winning support in the party’s usual strongholds.

“Remember it’s not a referendum. It’s a choice,” he said at the stake next Tuesday.

Biden said Republicans would follow through on proposals to cut health care and retirement benefits if they win control of Congress.

“They’re just saying it,” he said. “They’re not even hiding it.”

Biden’s itinerary in the final days of the campaign reflects the limited political influence of a president who some Democrats have kept at arm’s length in a tight race this cycle. It also suggests that the president, whose approval rating remains underwater, has concluded that he will use the approach of the election to boost support for Democratic candidates in easily winnable areas in 2020. Using days can be most effective.

Biden’s four-state, three-day trip includes California, Illinois and Pennsylvania, where Biden has deep roots.

“Democrats are clearly on the defensive and that’s having an effect as the campaign winds down,” said Christopher Bork, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. “The chances of them getting benefits don’t seem realistic, so now you look at what you can save.”

The president’s party usually suffers significant losses during midterm elections. Since 1934, only Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934, Bill Clinton in 1998, and George W. Bush in 2002 have seen their parties win seats in the midterms.

Some recent presidents saw big losses in their first midterm races. Republicans led by Donald Trump lost 40 House seats in 2018 but gained two Senate seats. Democrats under Barack Obama lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats in 2010, and Democrats under Clinton lost 52 House seats and eight Senate seats in 1994.

The decision to field Biden in areas he won handily in 2020 was prompted in part by concerns about voter energy in races that Democrats see as must-wins. Party officials are also concerned about some candidates who have seen their races tighten in the final days of the campaign.

Biden won New Mexico by about 11 percentage points in 2020, but Interior Secretary Deb Holland, who is from the state, warned the election would be close.

“The Republicans are closing in on us,” he said. “And we can’t let that happen.”

Fundraising by Ronchetti’s campaign has come amid visits from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Ronchetti also received a social media endorsement from Trump despite Biden winning in 2020.

Before speaking at a political rally, Biden visited Central New Mexico Community College to tout its student debt relief program, calling it a “game changer for a lot of people.”

Focusing on young voters whose support Democrats are desperately seeking, Biden said, “Your race will not be ignored. You will not be ignored. You will not be silenced. Will.”

About 26 million people have applied for student loan forgiveness, up 4 million from two weeks ago. About 16 million applications are expected to be approved by the end of the week, but no loans can be forgiven until the legal battle over the program is resolved.

“Republican members of Congress and Republican governors are doing everything they can, including taking us to court, even denying relief to their own constituents,” Biden said.

Later Thursday, Biden was joining Rep. Mike Levine for a get-out-the-vote event at a community college in Oceanside, Calif. Leon represents a district with a slight Democratic tilt that intersects San Diego and Orange counties and that Biden carries by double digits in the 2020 presidential election. Republican candidate Brian Marriott has fallen behind Levine on inflation, gas prices and rising crime.

Biden is scheduled to spend Friday and part of Saturday in the Chicago area, where two-term incumbent Rep. Sean Caston is facing a tough challenge from Republican Keith Paceau as he seeks to carry a suburban district. Which Biden won by double digits. Percentage in 2020. The White House has yet to announce plans for Biden’s time in Chicago.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Republican leaders, announced this week a $1.8 million ad buy to support Mayor Pekau of south suburban Orland Park. And Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, is scheduled to campaign with Pekau in the district on Friday.

Caston’s campaign, in a fundraising email Wednesday, called the super PAC’s cash grab a “last-ditch effort to buy this seat” and urged supporters to donate to the campaign’s final stretch. send

The president will travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday, where he will campaign for Obama with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro and Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman.

Pennsylvania Democrats are seeking to retain control of the governor’s office, vacated by Tom Wolf after completing his second term. Fetterman is tied in a tight race with Republican Mehmet Oz, seeking the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pete Toomey.

Chris Majorian reports from Washington. Associated Press writers Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Michael R. Blood in San Juan Capistrano, California; and Sarah Burnett in Chicago and Colin Binkley in Washington contributed.

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