It’s a fairly time-honored tradition for presidents to spend at least a small share of their time and money lending a helping hand to their Congressional fellows with their various districts, especially when the partisan fate of the legislative branch is in play (which, this year, it is). The House doesn’t seem to be in too much danger of losing its Republican majority, but the Senate right now looks like anyone’s game.
Depending on the dynamics within an individual district, a little campaign-trail help from an incumbent president can be a lot of help for a candidate in getting their name out there or getting local voters energized, but earlier this year, President Obama let Democrats know that they shouldn’t expect any help from him with campaign cash — and it looks like he’s sticking with the stingy strategy in terms of personal endorsements as well. The WSJ reports:
The Obama campaign is primarily focused on winning the 270 electoral votes needed to gain a second term. The president does almost no fundraising for Senate or House candidates and hasn’t transferred money to other party election committees. His numerous campaign offices rarely coordinate with local candidates or display signs for anyone but Mr. Obama.
At rallies, Mr. Obama seldom urges supporters to volunteer—or even vote—for other Democrats running for office. Sometimes, he mentions other politicians in the room without noting that they are seeking re-election. He rarely shares the stage with other candidates.
“He’s ultimately there to communicate where he wants to bring the country and the differences he has with Mitt Romney. He’s not out there campaigning all around the country for other candidates,” a senior Obama campaign official said. “It’s not that he doesn’t want them to get elected, but it’s a campaign event to elect him.” …
Asked recently whether Mr. Obama would campaign with Wisconsin Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin, White House press secretary Jay Carney was noncommittal. “The president himself has an election, as you know, in a few short months,” he said.
There are multiple likely motivations at play here: Firstly, ensuring four more years for President Obama himself is Team O’s priority numero uno. Secondly, part of Obama’s it’s-not-my-fault campaign messaging relies pitting himself against an uncooperative, obstructionist, unpopular Congress, and he wouldn’t want to appear too cozy with too many of them. And thirdly, of course, especially for Democrats running in more conservative-leaning districts, many of them simply don’t want his help. President Obama’s own approval rating just dropped to 43 percent — not everybody is looking to hitch their wagon to that.
Kind of awkward, though, that a man who spends half his time telling us he’s sure he’ll be able to accomplish more in conjunction with Congress in a second term isn’t doing more to bolster the Senate’s chances of maintaining their Democratic majority or to picking up Democrats in the House, isn’t it? Shouldn’t he perhaps be donating at least a fraction of his time to telling Americans to set him up with a Congress he can work with? I merely inquire.