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    Obama admits some in party would like distance

    WASHINGTON — President Obama, struggling with low approval ratings after a dispiriting year of setbacks, conceded in private remarks Wednesday that some fellow Democrats might not want his help in this fall’s elections.

    The candid self-appraisal came during a policy retreat with the Senate Democratic caucus at the Washington Nationals’ stadium, part of a flurry of outreach efforts with congressional Democrats this week focused on crafting strategies for the midterms.

    ‘‘He said he knew he is not popular in some of the states, so he would not be offended if he were not invited to visit them this year,’’ said one senator who requested anonymity to discuss the private meeting. ‘‘But he said he could be helpful in some parts of some states.’’


    Nonetheless, participants said Obama emphasized the importance of keeping Democratic control of the upper chamber, which is five seats away from a GOP majority. Obama was accompanied at the meeting by his new legislative-affairs director, Katie Beirne Fallon, and his new political adviser, John Podesta.

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    A day earlier, Obama entertained House Democrats for two hours at the White House, with about 10 members of his Cabinet, including Secretary of State John F. Kerry, joining the reception.

    There is rising anxiety among Democrats about the president’s pledge to work around Congress to advance his agenda and the effect his declining popularity might have on midterms. Longshot hopes of regaining the House appear to have faded after the failure to accomplish much of Obama’s agenda last year.

    In the Senate, members in tough reelection races have begun to distances themselves from Obama. Senator Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, said in an interview with CNN last week that he is ‘‘not really interested in campaigning’’ with the president and would like see him alter some policies.

    Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, another at-risk Democrat, said before Wednesday’s meeting, ‘‘I think the president is more focused on running the country than helping me in my reelection.’’


    Some Democrats have declined to attend events with Obama when he has visited their states. Landrieu did not join him at a November event on the economy at a New Orleans port, and Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina snubbed the president last month when he spoke at North Carolina State University.

    White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that Obama ‘‘will be doing everything he can to assist Democrats, as he already has.’’ But Carney said Obama is more keenly focused on rallying Democrats to support the agenda he laid out in his State of the Union address last week.

    Tensions within the party were apparent during question-and-answer sessions between lawmakers and the president.

    During the event with House members in the East Room, where members were treated to wine and food, Representative Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat of New Hampshire, told Obama that someone should be fired for the health-care law’s botched rollout in the fall, said several people who attended the meeting. The moment was more awkward because Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was among Cabinet members who mingled with the lawmakers.

    ‘‘I asked what’s been on my mind for months,’’ Shea-Porter said in an interview Wednesday. ‘‘I don’t think there’s any shock anywhere around the country that somebody should be held accountable and that I would ask that question.’’


    Shea-Porter is expected to face a strong GOP challenge in New Hampshire. State residents are especially frustrated that only one insurance company is offering coverage this year as part of the new law.

    Obama responded that problems with the health-care website have been fixed, enrollment is growing steadily, and the administration is focused on moving forward, attendees said.

    ‘‘He said the question is what they are going to do from here on out,’’ said Representative Judy Chu, Democrat of California.