They work both ways. They incite repulsive backlash among a sector of the electorate sick and tired of politics as usual. And they fuel real fear and anger over government overreach and expansion into the furthest reaches of Americans’ lives. So who wins in these continuing on-air battles?

We’ll see in about two weeks. In the meantime……well, yes, this is a mean time. In race after race, it’s getting uglier in these final days.

Though the president at any given time is the de facto head of his party, some respect the office of the presidency as representing all the people of the United States more than others. So when the president goes on the stump to launch attacks against the other party…as opposed to campaigning for an idea or candidate…it polarizes a large swath of Americans. But president Obama is most comfortable campaigning, and so he has been in states with close races and especially ones in which the Democrats aren’t running away from him.

He was in Ohio over the weekend.

Barack Obama tried to recapture the spirit of his 2008 White House election today in a desperate effort to save Democrats facing a Republican avalanche in next month’s midterm elections.

Speaking at one of the biggest Democratic rallies since 2008, he reminded the crowd of 35,000 at Ohio State University of all the enthusiasm there had been then, the doors being knocked, the phone booths manned, election night itself and the inauguration concert, with Beyonce and Bono.

That was then. This is now. The message can’t be recycled.

He told them to rekindle that mood and campaign just as hard again now, adding that it was never just about getting him elected. “It was about building a movement for change that lasted for a long time. We will build a movement for change that will last 10 years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.

But, with election day just over a fortnight away, his appeal may be too late.

Actually, there’s considerable evidence that he has lost a lot of the appeal he had with some voters. So if the messenger is hollow, the message is all but evaporated. Campaign strategy reflects that reality.

The Democratic party campaign leader, bowing to political reality, are cancelling millions in advertising planned for Congressional candidates they no longer believe are capable of winning, and transferring the cash to shore up seats previously regarded as safe Democratic.

Like, Nevada. And California.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., was halting, confused and often nonresponsive in this week’s debate with Sharron Angle. “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looked as if he could barely stay on a linear argument,” concluded Jon Ralston, dean of Nevada’s political analysts, “abruptly switching gears and failing to effectively parry or thrust.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is best described as imperiously incoherent, a verbal train wreck of cliches and grim smiles. Like her fellow San Francisco lefty Sen. Barbara Boxer, Pelosi avoids extended conversations with the press, refuses any meaningful debate about ideas, and manages to infuse almost every public appearance with contempt for everyone who does not agree with her very narrow world view.

Reid and Pelosi — or, truth be told, their staffs and handlers — are on every ballot this fall. Obamacare, the stimulus, the wild, out-of-control spending and the 9.6 percent unemployment are their handiwork.

So that means Democrats are caught….sorry….between ‘Barack and a hard place’ (overused, yes; apt, yes). It’s making for some interesting debates. Like Colorado’s.

Incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, who replaced Ken Salazar last year, is in an uphill battle against Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite Ken Buck.

In a debate moderated by ABC News’ Jake Tapper and KMGH anchor Mike Landess, Bennet struggled to distance himself from the Obama administration, painting himself as a moderate as Buck accused him of running away from his record.

“I have been more likely to vote with the other party than any other member of the congressional delegation, whether they’re Democratic or whether they’re Republican,” said Bennet. “And on some critical issues for Colorado, I fought the administration.”

It’s a confusing election. Charges and counter-allegations mark nearly all the campaigns. That’s not unusual for elections. But a dance list is really needed in this one. Even….and especially….in Illinois.

In their most bitter face-to-face encounter yet, Gov. Quinn and GOP rival Bill Brady scrapped for 90 minutes Sunday with Quinn branding Brady a “walking conflict of interest” and Brady labeling Quinn a “worse governor” than Rod Blagojevich.

The name-calling dominated the third public debate between the major-party gubernatorial candidates, turning their exchange at Elmhurst College into a live replaying of their hostile attack ads that are blanketing the airwaves with 15 days left until Election Day.

That’s the reality. Minnesota is known as “The hockey state.” Illinois is now called…by no less than the Chicago Tribune…the ‘State of Corruption.”

Unlike in the earlier debates, Quinn — consistently trailing Brady in most polls — sharpened his attacks against the state senator from Bloomington, accusing him of voting three times as a lawmaker on issues of benefit to his Downstate real estate development company.

“We don’t need a walking conflict of interest as governor of Illinois,” Quinn said.

Brady denied “knowingly” casting votes that were in conflict with his business interests and accused Quinn of simply using that as a smoke screen to cover up his inability to improve the state’s economic malaise.

“Your personal attacks aren’t going to help the hard-working people in Illinois find a job,” Brady shot back.

And so it goes in ‘Election 2010.’ They don’t get it. But they will in about two weeks.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....