There are many Democratic candidates who would welcome former President Barack Obama’s help in winning their election this November.
But Democrats running in states won by Donald Trump in 2016 are not getting in line to ask for his assistance. In fact, there are many Democrats running in red and swing districts who are running away from their own party, trying to carve out independent positions in order to distance themselves from the Obama/Sanders/Warren wing of the Democratic Party.
Others, such as Sens. Jon Tester(Mont.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), want to keep the race locked on the battle between themselves and their state rivals, fearing a high-profile surrogate like Obama could distract from the strategy.
“We’re not going to use any surrogates. Surrogates are fine but we don’t need them. The race is myself and Matt Rosendale and that’s the way we want to keep it,” Tester told The Hill, referring to his GOP challenger.
Asked if she thought Obama might show up in North Dakota, Heitkamp said: “Nope, no.”
“He threatened to campaign against me once so I don’t think he’s coming out there,” she said.
While the former president remains extremely popular with the Democratic base, especially among African-American voters, Democrats fear his entrance into some battleground states could inadvertently rev up conservatives and pro-Trump voters.
“Trump wants nothing more than a foil. He knows he can activate the other side,” said a source familiar with Obama’s thinking.
The former president is “going to be involved this fall in a very Obamaesque, smart way,” the source added.
Obama can be a lightening rod of opposition in some districts — a fact not lost on many Democrats running for open seats and in swing districts in the heartland. Trump is still popular in these districts and an Obama endorsement of the Democratic candidate would only remind people of the eight years prior to the Trump presidency.
The dilemma faced by Democrats is that they need all the help they can get to win these heartland, pro-Trump seats in order to take over the House in November. But bringing in Obama for a campaign swing or two might lose them more votes than they would win.
It’s a reality that may prevent Democrats from achieving victory.