President Barack Obama traveled to the northeastern state of Rhode Island to campaign in the last days before congressional elections only to receive a tongue-lashing from the Democrat running for governor in the smallest U.S. state.
Frank Caprio unleashed the salty and highly unusual outburst after learning the president was not going endorse him in the Nov. 2 balloting.
The national election is widely expected to give Republicans control of the House of Representatives. Republicans were likewise expected to take the keys to many state governors' mansions currently held by Democrats. Forecasters say Democrats likely will lose seats but hold their majority in the Senate.
The intraparty skirmish was emblematic of Democrats' struggle this year as voters increasingly blame them and the president for the miserable American economy and near-10 percent unemployment.
Some Democrats have even declined campaign appearances by the president, whose approval ratings have fallen sharply at the midpoint of his first term. He is not on the ballot again until 2012.
Caprio's sharp words were in contrast to early remarks in which he said, as recently as Sunday night, that he was looking forward to Obama's first Rhode Island visit as president.
But after learning Obama would not be endorsing him, Caprio said in a radio interview Monday that the president could "take his endorsement and really shove it." He said he would not attend two Obama events Monday night.
Chafee is one of four-candidate governor's race. The former Republican senator, who is running as an independent, served with Obama for two years and gave him a high-profile endorsement ahead of the state's Democratic presidential primary in 2008.
Caprio appeared to be trying to turn Obama's rebuff into a campaign plus, calling it "Washington insider politics at its worst."
"What I'm saying to President Obama very clearly is, I'll wear as a badge of honor and a badge of courage that he doesn't want to endorse me as a Democrat, because I am a different kind of Democrat," he said.
Democrats are counting heavily on a good showing in the more than 5.7 million ballots already cast in the 25 states where early voting is permitted or where absentees have been counted, underscoring the importance of get-out-the-vote drives that now begin long before Election Day.
The party is deeply invested in such efforts and counting on them to help tip close races their way in states like Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faces tea party-backed challenger Sharron Angle.
Republicans are counting on campaign enthusiasm — polls agree their voters are more eager to cast ballots than Democrats — as well as their own get-out-the-vote efforts.
But eight days before the election, the principal uncertainty concerned the size and scope of anticipated Democratic losses in the House, the Senate, governor's races and state legislatures.
An Associated Press-GfK Poll showed that perhaps one-third of all voters have yet to settle on their choices. But that wasn't encouraging for the Democrats, either. Some 45 percent of the undecided say they prefer the Republican candidate for the House, and 38 percent like the Democrat.
Obama was returning to the White House late Monday for a few days before resuming campaigning at week's end. His itinerary then will include Connecticut, where party officials are hoping he can mobilize African-Americans whose votes are needed in races for the Senate and governor, as well as a re-election bid by Democratic member of the House.
Obama also will campaign in Pennsylvania, where polls show Rep. Joe Sestak in a close race with Republican Pat Toomey — for a Senate seat that Democrats currently hold. Similarly, there are numerous Democratic-held House seats in the state that Obama is working to sustain.
Later stops are in Ohio, where Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland is struggling to win a new term against Republican challenger John Kasich, and the president's home state of Illinois, where polls show both a Senate seat and the governor's office are in danger of falling to the Republicans.