In one instance after another in recent weeks, Democratic politicians stayed away from President Barack Obama when he visited their states. The Democrats don’t want to be tainted by association with a president whose approval rating stands below 45 percent, Politico reports.
Obama’s lack of popularity hurt Democrats in the Past three major elections — the gubernatorial race in West Virginia this month and the special House elections in New York and Nevada last month. In recent visits to Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina — states he won in 2008 — members of Congress avoided appearing with Obama.
Obama “may end up being Walter Mondale of 1984,” Raleigh, N.C., Democratic strategist Brad Crone, told Politico. In that year, the state’s agriculture commissioner was the only elected official willing to be seen in public with the party’s presidential nominee.
Obama met a similar fate in a visit to Pittsburgh this month. “Southwest Pennsylvania has become over time a difficult place for Democrats because of the perception they are left of center,” T.J. Rooney, a former state Democratic Party chairman, told Politico.
In a recent visit by Obama to Detroit, where he won 74 percent of the vote in 2008, no Michigan congressman showed up. Some were upset with the president’s support for recent free trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama.
“You’ve got 15 members from Michigan, and everyone has a different reason,” for not attending, veteran Democratic Rep. John Dingell told Politico. “My reason was I had different things to do.”
Members of Congress who face difficult re-election battles next year are particularly wary of embracing the president. When Obama visited St. Louis this month to promote his jobs plan, Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of those who face a tough fight next year, stayed in Washington.
She wrote on Twitter that she it wouldn’t look good for her to be “hobnobbing with big donors” back in Michigan with Obama. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee released a video of McCaskill appearing that very night at a fundraiser in Washington. So Obama was clearly the issue for her.
To be sure, not all Democrats believe it is a wise move to shun the president when he’s from their own party. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told Politico that such an attitude amounts to “political idiocy.”
“A lot of members of Congress are complete wusses," Rendell said. "It’s absurd to think if you show up with the president, you’re doing yourself some damage. Do these members think for a minute voters are going to forget they are Democrats? I think they think, ‘Boy, that guy’s a wuss or a weenie, running from the president.’”
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