Dems to Obama: Don't stand so close to me

The Hill follows up on the obvious trend among Democratic incumbents on Capitol Hill to recast themselves as a check on Barack Obama rather than a rubber stamp, and its comic results on the campaign trail. Senate and House Democrats are “distancing themselves” from the President and attempting to focus more on local politics than national stories. And one way to accomplish that is to make sure that Obama stays physically distant, too:

Democrats in tough reelection races have a blunt message for President Obama: Keep away.

Obama’s approval ratings are in the basement and show no signs of improving, so Democrats are keeping their distance. On the stump, in campaign ads and at fundraisers, Obama’s absence is increasingly conspicuous. …

Many of the Democratic senators elected in 2008 rode to office on Obama’s coattails. Six years later, they’re asking, “Barack who?”

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) last week avoided being at his own fundraiser while Obama was there, excusing himself on the grounds that he had to attend votes at the Capitol.

It’s an even bigger problem when the local politics are national as well:

It is not just Senate Democrats who are displeased with the president. Some House members have expressed dissent over his approach to the surge of young illegal immigrants streaming across the southern border.

Last week, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) described Obama’s behavior over the border crisis as “aloof,” “detached” and “bizarre.”

Referring to a staged photo opportunity for news media when Obama drank beer and played pool in Colorado while thousands of Latino children crossed the southern border illegally, Cuellar added, “I mean, the optics are just horrible.”

The centrist Texas congressman was not the only critic. Liberal Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told MSNBC that “the borderlands deserve a presidential visit.”

That’s not the only national story about an Obama administration crisis with local impact. In New Hampshire, Republican challenger Scott Brown leveled a campaign-ad broadside at incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen over the VA scandal and the shameful treatment of veterans under the Obama administration. Brown’s military service puts him in good position to hammer Obama on this scandal and to tie Shaheen to the lack of action and oversight on the VA from both the White House and the Senate:

“Thirty-five years as a member of the Army National Guard. I retired this year as a Colonel,” Brown says in the ad.

“I’m proud of the men and women I served with, but the Obama-Shaheen economy is not working for them or anyone else. Veterans deserve better than long waits for patient care — a national scandal,” he adds. …

And it highlights what the Brown campaign sees as a strong asset — his record on veterans’ issues. As a senator from Massachusetts, Brown served on the Veterans Affairs Committee, and cosponsored a number of bills to secure benefits and government protections for veterans.

Brown’s fighting an uphill battle in New Hampshire against Shaheen, running ten points back in the RCP average since April. That’s actually gotten slightly worse in recent weeks for Brown, with two of the three most recent polls putting him twelve points back and Shaheen at 50% or better, a critical level for any incumbent. Obama does best in the Northeast in approval levels, but the VA scandal’s reach cuts across all regional and demographic lines, too. Will this ad and the scandal impact the race? We may not know that until September, but if Brown can put pressure on Shaheen in New Hampshire by tying her to Obama, expect that to be a very successful strategy for the GOP overall — especially as Democrats keep trying to sell themselves as the supposed check on Obama’s overreach and incompetence.