Democrats Avoid Obama, Lack Of Political Liability.
No one views Obama as a political liability.
Roughly a year out from the 2012 presidential election, that may be true. But already, as Obama’s most recent forays into battleground states indicate, there are growing signs that many Democratic politicians don’t want to get too close to him either.
In trips to Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania — all states that he carried in 2008 — members of Congress were notably missing from the president’s side. Though none came out and said they were deliberately avoiding him, they didn’t have to: Dodging a presidential candidate who’s riding low in the polls is a time-honored political practice.
The last three elections — the Sept. 13 House special elections in New York and Nevada and the Oct. 4 West Virginia special governor’s election — haven’t done much to inspire confidence about Obama’s ability to help the entire ticket: the president was unquestionably an anchor on the Democratic nominees in each race.
For Obama, who’s led a charmed political life since bursting onto the national stage in 2004 — he was in high demand on the campaign trail even before he won his Senate seat that year — it’s a harbinger of a humbling election year to come.
In North Carolina, only Sen. Kay Hagan, who isn’t up for reelection until 2014, and veteran Rep. Mel Watt, who represents a majority black seat, appeared with the president. The state’s other six Democratic House members took a pass, offering a variety of excuses.
“[Obama] may end up being Walter Mondale of 1984,” said Raleigh-based Democratic strategist Brad Crone, recalling how the only elected official who risked being seen with the party’s nominee that year was the longtime agriculture commissioner.
In Pennsylvania, where Obama visited Pittsburgh two weeks,the story was much the same — no members of Congress to be found. Though two of southwestern Pennsylvania’s three Democratic congressmen greeted the president on the airport tarmac, neither of them attended any of the public events Obama held, choosing instead to return to Washington.
“Southwest Pennsylvania has become over time a difficult place for Democrats because of the perception they are left of center,” said T.J. Rooney, a former Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman and state legislator.
Some Democrats believe that attempts to keep a distance from the president can only backfire. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called it “political idiocy” for Democrats to purposefully avoid a president from their own party.
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