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Some candidates keep distance from Obama, Romney

(CBS News) The nation may be focused on the bitter battle between President Obama and Mitt Romney for the presidency, but it's far from the only game in town: There are 468 Congressional races taking place across the country. And some of the candidates involved in them want little to do with the man who is ostensibly the leader of their party.

During a recent debate against Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Scott Brown did not mention Romney's name -- even though he hails from the same state as Romney and served in the state legislature when Romney was governor.

Meanwhile, at least three Republican Senate candidates distanced themselves from Romney over the GOP nominee's comments about the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes, who Romney dismissed as government dependents who would not vote for him. Among them is Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who is in a tight race against Rep. Shelley Berkley for Nevada's Senate seat. Heller said he has "a very different view of the world and as a United States senator I think I represent everybody."

Romney is not alone in seeing downballot candidates keep their distance. In North Carolina, two Democratic candidates running in tough remapped districts, Reps. Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre, have no plans to endorse the president.

Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, said Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester will have a difficult time beating challenger Denny Rehberg because of the president's unpopularity in the red state. "He's got a very difficult re-election because of Obama and that's probably why, if he loses, he will lose," Sabato said.

The National Republican Congressional Committee released more than 25 television ads Monday for candidates in close races across the country. Not one of the ads connected the candidate to Romney.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay said a Republican majority in Congress is their main goal, regardless of what is happening at the top of the ticket.

There "is a strong desire to make sure there is no longer one party rule in Washington," he said, in a signal that he sees Romney as a less-than-sure thing.

Jessica Taylor with the Rothenberg Political Report said that because no party has a clear advantage this election, down-ballot candidates are tending to not ride the coattails of the presidential candidates.

"If it were a favorable political environment for one party or the other, they would certainly want to run with the top of the ticket, anticipating that could help them," Taylor said. Yet the president is an incumbent running amidst a sluggish economy, while Romney is struggling to connect with voters and convince them that he has a better plan.

In Pennsylvania, Rep. Mark Critz beat his more conservative colleague, Rep. Jason Altmire, in the primary in a newly-formed district. Critz is running against the president.

"Seven hundred coal jobs dependent on building an air shaft at the Cumberland Mine. But we had to fight President Obama's EPA to get it built," a Critz ad says.

Taylor said that in this election, "the individual campaigns and candidates matter more" than who is running for president in many races.

Sabato said avoiding the presidential candidates only goes so far, however.

"They can run as far apart as they want but they are still going to have coattail problems," Sabato said. He noted that attack ads often tie the opponent to the top of the ticket.

In an ad challenging incumbent Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., a Republican ad says, "We used to count on Nick Rahall. But then came Obama, and Rahall voted with him 94 percent of the time." And in New York, the Democratic Party released an ad for Julian Schreibmann that says, "Chris Gibson and Mitt Romney don't seem to get that everybody pays for their Medicare."

It isn't always this way. In the Senate race in blue-state Massachusetts, Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren is using the president to her advantage. She praised his foreign policy in last week's debate, saying he has done "a first-rate job."

And in Utah, Republican challenger Mia Love, who is running against Democratic incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson, is running as close to Romney as she can, even giving a prime time address at the Republican National Convention. Romney is expected to receive 75 percent of the vote in the Salt Lake City suburban district, a phenomenon expected to boost Love's chances.

The University of Virginia's Sabato points out, "If it's a blue state, they're running with Obama and if it's a red state, they're running with Romney."

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