Politico notices a buried lede in the Boston Globe’s morning report on the Massachusetts special election to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate. With Haiti crumbling, a war to fight, and ObamaCare negotiations hitting a high-pressure point, Barack Obama could only offer a two-minute snoozefest of a web ad in support of Martha Coakley. Now it looks as though Rahm Emanuel may be sounding the red alert at the White House and get Obama on the ground in Massachusetts (emphases mine, h/t Geoff A):
The White House has shown increasing alarm about the race, with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel placing calls to top Massachusetts Democrats to assess Coakley’s chances and weigh the costs and benefits of a potential Obama visit.
Former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani urged voters who rallied in Boston’s North End to elect Brown for his anti-terror credentials.
“His election, I believe will send a signal — and a very dramatic one — that we’re going in the wrong direction on terrorism,” said Giuliani, who opposes having the trial of Sept. 11 terror suspects in New York City. …
A Coakley loss was long viewed as unthinkable among local political analysts and observers. The state not only has a Democratic governor, but overwhelming Democratic majorities in its House and Senate, as well as an all-Democratic congressional delegation.
Just this week, the White House insisted Obama would not involve himself directly:
It was only Monday that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that campaigning for Coakley was “not on the schedule.” Asked if the campaign had asked the White House for help, Gibbs said, “Not that I’m aware of.”
There are two problems with an Obama intervention now. It would signal to everyone just how desperate Coakley has become. And while Democrats might cheer a little retail campaigning by the Campaigner in Chief, his presence would serve to remind people of Coakley’s ongoing absences from retail campaigning. Brian McGrory made a point of reminding Boston Globe readers about her lack of dedication:
Martha Coakley made a jaw-dropping declaration earlier this week at the only live televised debate in Boston that she has deigned to do. She said, and I quote, “I’ve traveled the state and met tremendous people.’’
If she did, it was under the cover of darkness, with an assumed name.
Because if she had really traveled the state, if she had taken the time to meet voters, Coakley wouldn’t be in the position she finds herself in now, heading into the final weekend of this special election campaign in a perilously close race against a GOP state legislator nobody had heard of a mere six months ago. …
Literally, she all but vanished. She refused to debate on TV unless it was exactly on her terms. She went days without venturing out in public. When she did appear, it was typically to accept endorsements from elected officials or union heads in front of supportive crowds. She may have gone the first month of the campaign without ever meeting an honest-to-goodness rank-and-file undecided resident.
The second problem? Obama’s track record on the campaign trail has not been stellar. He linked himself to Jon Corzine very publicly in October and November, calling Corzine his “partner” — and blue-state New Jersey voters sent Corzine packing in favor of Republican Chris Christie. At the same time, Obama couldn’t fill fundraisers in Massachusetts for Deval Patrick, either. That Obama magic took place before all of the back-room dealing on ObamaCare and the job losses in December.
Obama may still decide to make an appearance — but don’t expect it to do much good.
Update: National Journal’s Reid Wilson outlines Obama’s dilemma well:
If there were ever a time for a Dem pres. to ride to the rescue and hold last-minute rallies on behalf of an embattled candidate in a deep blue state, this is it. If there were ever a time for Pres. Obama to use his political capital and sheer force of will to drag a candidate across the finish line, this is it.
And yet Obama’s involvement in the race has not included a visit, or a TV ad. It has consisted of a single web video, emailed to supporters yesterday, endorsing MA AG Martha Coakley (D), and a robo-call launched today. …
But, in reality, the situation is a lot worse for Dems than it appears. According to strategists familiar with internal polls conducted for Coakley’s campaign, the consequences of Obama’s visit could produce a net-negative effect on Coakley’s campaign.
Obama has a net favorable rating in MA, according to public and private polls. A Suffolk Univ. poll out today shows 55% of MA voters viewing him favorably, while just 35% see him unfavorably. But the intensity of voters who view him unfavorably, or who disapprove of his job performance, is so high that an appearance with Coakley could bring out more GOPers ready to vote for Brown than it could Dems set on their nominee.
“Obama is radioactive in polls,” said one senior Dem operative who has seen the campaign’s internal numbers. “Every time they dropped his name in a poll, it was awful. So you just can’t take those kinds of chances.”
Damned if he does, and slightly less damned if he doesn’t….
Update II: Damned if he does, from Jake Tapper’s Twitter feed at 1:50 ET today:
POTUS will travel to Mass. Sunday to campaign for Dem candidate Coakley
Yeah, but Coakley appear? Or will she be in DC huddling with lobbyists?