The Big Snub: Did Udall Strategy Do More Campaign Harm Than Good?

Hello, Mr. President, it was nice seeing you in Colorado, perhaps for the last time this year.

Or not seeing you, as the case may be.

That was the attitude expressed by political observers when President Obama flew to Denver last week, ostensibly to help several Democratic candidates in the state, only to receive the campaigning cold shoulder from some of them.

They included Gov. John Hickenlooper, congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff, and, perhaps most ironically, Sen. Mark Udall – all of whom said they had previous commitments or scheduling conflicts that prevented them from joining Obama onstage during Obama’s speech about the economy.

At least Hickenlooper managed to squeeze in some 8-ball at the local pool hall with the president, where some photographers snapped a few shots of them together. But Udall’s name was most prominent among the “POTUS snubbers” because Obama’s schedule also included a Udall fundraising event, which Udall also determined he could not attend. Udall and his colleagues generated a mini-controversy in Denver with their unwillingness to appear in public with Obama and perhaps end up in a photo alongside him.

A member of the camp of Rep. Corey Gardner (R-Colo.), who is challenging Udall in this key U.S. Senate race, laughed at the Big Snub and noted that it could come back to bite Udall.

Later, Gardner’s camp released this interpretation: "Now that he (Udall) has been called out on being a rubber stamp for President Obama’s agenda he has decided to hide in Washington, D.C. instead of face voters back in his home state. Sen. Udall’s bizarre behavior these last few days will no doubt leave many Coloradans questioning his integrity, and rightly so.”

Political analyst Floyd Ciruli of Denver agreed, at least in terms of the perception that Udall was creating with this non-appearing act.

“Clearly, Corey Gardner is making the case that Udall is a puppet for the administration and is responsible for Obamacare and the immigration crisis and an incredible number of things that have happened just this year,” Ciruli said. “Democrats who are vulnerable are doing everything they can to show they are independent. And it substantially undermines that message when you’re in a photo standing next to him (Obama).”

The question is whether this strategy of disassociation is really so obvious, and how effective it might be in the long run. There also has to be the question of how tolerant and understanding the president might be. His press office did not respond immediately with an answer to that question. But Ciruli felt free to speculate:

“My prediction is we won’t see the president again in this election cycle in the state of Colorado,” he said.

Which might come as a relief to Udall and his gang. If Udall had second thoughts about his strategy, his press office was not offering any insight.

“It (strategy) may be too smart,” Ciruli said. “It has become so transparent, the act itself is subject to a host of criticism.”

He said the convenient disassociation, mixed with the pandering of a fundraising appearance, could actually cost Udall the very votes he was trying to preserve.

“It’s possible that trying to avoid the contact makes you look so political, that’s a worse image than it would be just standing next to the president,” he said. “It can to some extent anger some people.”

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)