CHICAGO -- On his final campaign swing through four states in the Northeast and Midwest before Tuesday's midterm elections, President Obama is asking Democratic voters to go to the polls and help stem an expected Republican tide.
"Chicago, it's up to you to let them know that we have not forgotten, we don't have amnesia," the president told a large outdoor crowd late Saturday near his home, referring to the economic recession that hit during George W. Bush's presidency. He said the election is a choice between the policies that caused the problems and policies that will lead the country to better times.
All four stops are in states Obama carried in 2008 -- Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois and Ohio -- and where Democrats are struggling this year. He is to headline a final rally Sunday in Cleveland before returning to Washington for Halloween with his family and other children invited to the White House.
Obama acknowledged the difficulties Democrats face -- the distinct chance of losing their comfortable majority in the House and possibly the Senate, as well as several governors' seats.
"There's no doubt this is a tough election," he said Saturday during a campaign stop in Philadelphia, "because we have been through an incredibly difficult time as a nation."
Unless Democratic voters turn out in big numbers, Obama said, all the progress made in the past two years "can be rolled back." Obama urged Democrats to "defy the conventional wisdom" that foresees huge GOP wins.
The Democratic National Committee put an ad featuring Obama on the air this weekend that warned of record cuts in education and rollbacks in financial accountability if Republicans take control of Congress.
In his appearances Saturday, Obama did not mention the thwarted mail bomb plot or the arrest in Yemen of a woman suspected of sending two mail bombs.
He focused on the fast-approaching elections.
In many races, vast numbers of the electorate had already made their choices. In Ohio, where Democrats could lose as many as six House seats, more than 721,000 votes had been cast. California officials already had in hand almost 2.5 million ballots, and Florida officials had almost 1.7 million.
Both parties worked vigorously to bank supporters' votes early. In all, more than 13.5 million votes had been cast early, either at ballot boxes that opened early or by mail. Four years ago, during the last non-presidential election, some 19 million voters cast ballots before Election Day.
Candidates were everywhere on Saturday, making last-weekend pitches for support.
Party stars were out in force, too.
Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, campaigned for Republican Senate candidate John Raese at a big rally in Charleston, W.Va. Palin said the state's Democratic governor, Joe Manchin, is a good fit in that job -- so voters should keep him there rather than elect him senator over Raese.
Former President Bill Clinton, campaigning for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's re-election, called the Republican pledge "a joke." He said, "Their deal sounds good but it doesn't work. ... Our ideas work better than theirs."
Later in Canton, Ohio, as Clinton was speaking at a rally, Ohio Rep. John Boccieri ran offstage after receiving word that his pregnant wife had gone into labor.
"The baby is now being born!" Clinton announced as the crowd erupted with cheers. "We got another Democrat."