Democrats to get campaign help from Obama - if they want it

President Obama makes his way across the South Lawn upon return to the White House on September 12, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama was in Baltimore, Maryland to visit Fort McHenry and to attend a fundraiser.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama plans to hit the campaign trail to help congressional Democrats this fall, although low polling numbers will likely limit the number of public appearances he plans.

Senior administration officials said that he will begin his campaign efforts in October, sometime in October, just one month before the election, according to The Hill newspaper. But the officials portrayed Mr. Obama's campaign plans as more limited than former President George W. Bush, who delivered more than 40 speeches for congressional candidates during the 2002 midterm elections.

A CBS News poll from early August shows that just 40 percent of Americans approve of the way the president is handling the economy, and that number drops to 36 percent when they are asked about his foreign policy record. Just 41 percent of Americans approve of his job performance overall, a number that has been fairly consistent over the past year.

So far, Mr. Obama's role has been mostly limited to fundraising for the candidates in an attempt to limit his exposure. He has headlined more than 40 events to raise money for Democrats, with more on the calendar.

A number of Democrats are locked in tight Senate races in states where Mr. Obama is already unpopular, and are looking for ways to create distance from him rather than a close embrace in their campaigns.

Still, the officials said they are feeling more optimistic about Democrats' prospects of holding the Senate now than they did a month ago, according to The Hill, and said there is a clear way for their party to retain control of the Senate because the close races remain within the margin of error.

The White House seems optimistic about the prospects of holding onto the open Senate seat in Michigan, which is beign vacated by the retirement of Democrat Carl Levin. They also see Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina holding onto their narrow leads, and a possible victory for Rep. Bruce Braley in the race for the open Iowa Senate seat.

With three Democratic Senate seats all but certain to turn Republican in the fall, the Democrats need to prevent the GOP from picking up another three to take control over the Senate. There are nine races where the Republican candidate stands a good chance.

But the president's midterm election pitch won't center around his campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the officials said, according to Buzzfeed, even though there is polling to show the military campaign has bipartisan support and majority approval.

He is planning a series of national radio ads for the Democratic National Committee aimed at turning out African-American, Hispanic, young and female voters who tend to come to the polls in lower numbers in midterm election years. The first ads started running Monday, according to the Associated Press, and are sweeping the nation at a cost of more than $1 million.

"I want an economy where your hard work pays off with higher wages, and higher incomes, and affordable health insurance and decent retirement benefits," Obama says in the ads.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.