Ron Barber, the aide to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who is running to replace her in a June 12 special election, stands as yet another Democrat who is shying away from President Barack Obama.
In Barber’s case the break is particularly pointed, as he developed a bond with the president after being wounded in the same shooting attack that nearly took Giffords’ life in January 2011, Politico
reports. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama even paid him a bedside visit when he was in the hospital.
But now Barber hardly even mentions Obama’s name. During a debate last month, Barber wouldn’t say whether he will vote for Obama, although his campaign later said that he would. And Barber won’t say whether he would have voted for the president’s healthcare reform, offering only that he would back changes to parts of it if elected.
None of Barber’s ads or press releases cites Obama, and his picture doesn’t appear on Barber’s web site, unlike many other Democratic congressional candidates. Democratic officials say Obama has no plans for an appearance on Barber’s behalf before the election or for a robocall or last-minute ad.
There’s good reason for Barber to keep his distance from Obama. The candidate hopes to represent a district where Republican voters outnumber Democrats by 25,000 voters, or 6 percentage points.
“There’s no doubt that district leans Republican,” Barry Dill, an Arizona-based political consultant who worked for former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, told Politico. “I suspect his team feels that because of the registration disadvantage there’s no reason for him to be seen or heard as an Obama apologist.”
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