Dem candidates avoiding Obama like the plague
You're a Democratic candidate for the House or the Senate and President Obama is in town. What do you do?
1. Get lost on the way to the event he is speaking at.
2. Feign illness and decline to attend.
3. Show up for the fundraiser but sneak out before the president arrives.
4. All of the above.
If you guessed "4," you win a cookie.
“It’s a no-brainer,” said one operative who works for a senator up for reelection in 2014. “The second term has been a bit of a disaster, his approval ratings are the lowest of his presidency and Washington is in disarray.”
Many of the Democratic senators elected in 2008 rode to office on Obama’s coattails. Six years later, they’re asking, “Barack who?”
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) last week avoided being at his own fundraiser while Obama was there, excusing himself on the grounds that he had to attend votes at the Capitol.
It is not just Senate Democrats who are displeased with the president. Some House members have expressed dissent over his approach to the surge of young illegal immigrants streaming across the southern border.
Last week, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) described Obama’s behavior over the border crisis as “aloof,” “detached” and “bizarre.”
Referring to a staged photo opportunity for news media when Obama drank beer and played pool in Colorado while thousands of Latino children crossed the southern border illegally, Cuellar added, “I mean, the optics are just horrible.”
The centrist Texas congressman was not the only critic. Liberal Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told MSNBC that “the borderlands deserve a presidential visit.”
He added, “I think a visit by the president is reaffirming that the borderlands along the southwest border are vital and important to this nation. So I think a visit would be important and very symbolic.”
Many Democrats in Congress complain that Obama is indifferent to their concerns. There is also a broader sense on Capitol Hill that Obama just isn’t the guy they thought he was, who would deliver on his vaunted promises of hope and change.
“He’s not the most popular man these days,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said. “A lot of people think it’s been one disappointment after the next and he can’t really get his bearings.”
Political observers say the White House understands the need for some Democrats to distance themselves from Obama. That is especially true in Senate contests where Democrats are seeking reelection in conservative states.
“They understand that President Obama is not the best messenger in all of these races,” said Christy Setzer, a Democratic strategist. “The White House understands this is about ... doing whatever it takes to save the Senate. In some places, that’s going to mean the president goes out and does events and, in other places, he takes a more behind the scenes role.”
The Senate is one thing - Obama is toxic in places like Lousiana and Arkansas. But most Democrats running in House races are campaigning in safe districts. If they don't want Obama to visit, they must think those districts wouldn't be as safe as they are now if they were seen in a photo op with the president.
Obama's numbers can get worse. If Hispanics and blacks start abandoning him - and there are some indications that they are - we could be looking at the leader of the Democratic party experiencing historic levels of unpopularity going into a mid term election. It probably won't mean that much in House races because the GOP has picked off most of the competitive seats already. But it could mean that Senate seats that are currently leaning Democratic like Colorado, Michigan, and perhaps even New Hampshire might be in play. Picking up one or two unexpected seats would virtually guarantee a GOP takeover in November.