Vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents running in red states are breathing a sigh of relief. White House aides are telling Politico that the president’s fall schedule of campaign stops will stick with blue states and avoid places where he is not popular.
The move isn’t exactly unprecedented. What makes this strategy unusual is that the Democrats are fighting to keep control of the Senate and Obama’s presence might ordinarily excite the base and open the spigot of campaign contributions. In this, a turn out election, a presidential visit close to election day could make a difference in a tight race.
But the president is so unpopular in so many states that whatever gains would be made by his appearance would be offset by giving the GOP candidate a potent weapon to hammer the incumbent with.
The White House is putting the finishing touches on a post-Labor Day schedule that will send the president to states where he’s still popular, such as: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Illinois and California, Obama officials and Democratic operatives said this week.
But in the red states that will determine control of the Senate, Obama will remain scarce. That means no personal campaign visits to states like Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana and North Carolina. He may do some targeted outreach through robocalls, digital ads and conference calls, but the campaign plan is clear: Stay away from candidates he’s already hurting.
Obama’s no-fly zone for certain Senate campaigns reflects the deep concern among Democrats about his drag on the national ticket. Obama can’t seem to get his poll numbers out of the low 40s, he’s struggled through an endless stream of foreign policy crises, and he’s the last person that many candidates want to be forced to defend on the campaign trail.
Six years ago, Obama’s massive campaign organization helped to sweep several Senate Democrats, now the most endangered, into office with his appeal to unite political factions.
Now, he’s an attack line.
Across the country, from Alaska and Colorado, to Louisiana and North Carolina, Republicans are citing how often the Democratic incumbent sided with the White House on votes in Congress. It’s a tactic Democrats used to great effect in 2006 when they wrestled back control of the Senate by linking every incumbent to President George W. Bush, who was even more unpopular than Obama.
“He’s going to be an anchor on each one of these Democrats all the way through,” said Guy Harrison, a media consultant for the Republican Senate nominees in Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina. “They’re trying to grasp every life preserver they can, but the anchor of Obama is still going to pull them down.”
White House officials argue that Obama never would have been deployed to assist red state Democrats, even at the height of his popularity. The better, more effective use of his time is to assist in states with key House races, such as Illinois, Pennsylvania and California, a senior administration official said. Obama still retains strong support in the Democratic base, and he can motivate African-Americans and Latinos like few others can.
Obama helping with House races? There might be 15-20 competitive seats in the entire country. And are they serious when they say they wouldn’t have sent him to red states if his approval was in the 60’s? Who are they trying to fool?
A pig in a prom dress is still a porker. There are a lot of Democrats who probably wish the president would hide in the White House basement until November. Unless a Democratic House member is going to get 70% of the vote, Obama is going to be the kiss of death for any Democratic politician foolish enough to appear with him.