Obama runs the gauntlet as midterm election closes in

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With just four months to go until the midterm elections, US president Barack Obama is under fire on all sides.

Mr Obama was forced to defend himself in an interview on US television in which he admitted the November congressional elections could amount to a referendum on his time in office.

In the interview Mr Obama said that the elections could come down to "a choice between the policies that got us into this mess and my policies that got us out of this mess." He conceded that "nobody in the White House is satisfied" with continuing high unemployment.

Though Mr Obama is still a hugely popular figure on the international stage, he is under increasing pressure at home.

The economy has not enjoyed the boost that he hoped for, the healthcare reform bill is yet to impact on the lives of ordinary Americans and criticism of him is growing increasingly bitter.

A US opinion poll this week found that nearly six in ten voters lack faith in the president to make the right decisions for the country, and 54 per cent said they disapprove of how he is dealing with the economy.

In the TV interview on Thursday Mr Obama said he believes voters "are going to say the policies that got us into this mess, we can't go back to." He also said Washington "has spent an inordinate amount of time on politics - who's up and who's down - and not enough on what we're doing for the American people."

In the same week that he gained another major legislative victory with the Senate passing of the financial reform bill, discontent reached boiling point in the House. Mr Obama is facing a backlash from Congressional Democrats who expressed anger that he is not doing enough to help them get re-elected in November's midterm elections.

They feel they have gone along with the White House on politically risky issues such as the healthcare overhaul and the stimulus plan, and they have got little in return.

The growing discontent was stoked by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' comments earlier this week that the House majority was in doubt and that it would take "strong campaigns by Democrats" to prevent dramatic losses.

"What the hell do they think we've been doing the last 12 months? We're the ones who have been taking the tough votes," said New Jersey Democrat Congressman Bill Pascrell.

Mr Obama met privately with House Democratic leaders on Wednesday night in an attempt to reassure them of his support.

Though he took a lot of heat for expressing them publicly, Mr Gibbs' views are shared by many in Washington. Analysts estimate that 60 Democratic House seats are vulnerable, while the Republicans only need to take 39 to win a majority.Party insiders say it is time for Mr Obama to rise to the challenge and come out fighting.

Supporters point to the president's major legislative achievements, but he has come under sustained attacks in the media in recent weeks.

With unemployment levels still high, Mr Obama's controversial stimulus bill is seen by many as having achieved little except adding an increased financial burden to tax payers.

Elaine Kamarck, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and former advisor to Bill Clinton and Al Gore, pointed out that voters traditionally take out their frustrations on the party of the incumbent in the midterm elections.

She said: "It's been a bad week and everyone is down on him but I don't think the losses will be as big as people are predicting. He needs to ask for time to get out of a mess that was not his own creation."

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