Yes, we’ve written about the efforts by Democratic officeholders in battleground states to avoid making appearances with the President of the United States as the 2012 electoral cycle approaches. Frankly, we just can’t get enough of those stories. Besides, this time we’re not just talking about battleground states:
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.
North Carolina is certainly a battleground state. It traditionally went Republican in presidential contests, or at least it did until 2008, when Obama found a way to wrest it from the GOP by less than 1% of the vote. By 2010, the state had reverted back to form enough for incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr win his re-election over Elaine Marshall by twelve points, a pretty clear message to North Carolina Democrats that Obama had worn out his welcome in the Tar Heel State.
Michigan and Pennsylvania are different matters entirely. The last time Pennsylvania voted for a Republican for President was 1988 for George H. W. Bush over Michael Dukakis. That’s also true for Michigan. Both states are heavy in union representation, and Michigan is supposed to represent the success of Obama’s automaker bailouts. If he can’t sell that claim in Michigan well enough to get Democrats out on the stump with him to share in the glory, then where exactly can Obama sell it?
In North Carolina, Democrats are thinking 1984 rather than 1988:
“[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, former DNC chair and governor Ed Rendell is thinking more like … junior high school:
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. …
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.
“A lot of members of Congress are complete wusses. 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,’” said Rendell.
Yes, but they’d be employed wusses. They’ve seen what the job situation is like in the private sector, and they must be as sure as the rest of us that it won’t improve while Obama is still in office.
If Democrats in Pennsylvania and Michigan won’t stand next to Obama, it’s a pretty clear indicator that the President will find it difficult to hold those two states. Can Obama win re-election without those two states? The last time that happened — in 1988, as I noted earlier — the Democratic candidate for President ended up winning nine states and the District of Columbia.