President Obama’s strategy for helping fellow Democrats win in the 2010 midterm elections is apparently to campaign against George W. Bush.
At a fundraiser two weeks ago, Obama declared of Republicans’ desire to take back leadership of Congress, “After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back. No! You can’t drive. We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch. We just got the car out.”
Emory University political science professor Merle Black recently characterized voters’ likely reaction to Obama’s emerging campaign strategy: “If you’re the leader of a large corporation and you’re in power for a year and a half and you start off a meeting with your shareholders by blaming your predecessor, that wouldn’t go over very well.”
Now, why do you suppose Obama wouldn’t have any idea how the leader of a corporation should behave? Wait—it’s on the tip of my tongue… I know! Do community organizers have actual responsibilities?
Perhaps at one point Obama intended to assist other Democrats by trumpeting his own record in office, a gambit that was based on the assumption he would whisk Senators and Representatives into power via the same sweeping electoral coattails he possessed before people saw him actually doing something besides campaigning.
The results over the past six months of Democratic candidates’ riding Obama’s gravy train seem to have dissuaded him of the wisdom of that approach.
In last November’s off-year gubernatorial elections, Obama campaigned vociferously for John Corzine in New Jersey and Creigh Deeds in Virginia, including making multiple appearances with them at campaign rallies, and failed to help either one get elected—and possibly hurt both.
Ditto for The Grim Reaper’s efforts to facilitate the election of Martha Coakley to Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts to save the 60th Senate vote for his signature health care bill.
Three weeks ago, incumbent Republican Senator from Utah Bob Bennett, who voted for the unpopular bank bailout that Bush instituted and Obama supported, failed to win his party’s primary nomination at the state GOP convention.
Two weeks ago, 14-term incumbent Democratic Representative from West Virginia Alan Mollohan, who voted for ObamaCare and was chastised by his Democratic opponent for having done so, lost his party’s primary election.
In contrast to the efforts he made for Corzine, Deeds, and Coakley, Obama tried just tossing his endorsement to Arlen Specter in Specter’s primary bid, and letting grassroots group Organizing for America do the dirty work of campaigning for Specter, but that didn’t help, either.
Pennsylvania Democrat Mark Critz ran for John Murtha’s seat on a platform opposing the following: ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, a national sales tax similar to Obama’s proposed Value Added Tax, gun control, abortion, and efforts to derail Arizona’s immigration law—i.e., what one might term the “Polar Opposite of Obama Platform”—and beat a similarly conservative Republican last week in a district with twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans.
Last Saturday, Republican Charles Djou won a vacant House seat by running on an explicitly anti-Obama, pro-Tea Party platform in a special election in Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District—the district where Obama grew up—thus becoming the first Republican Representative from Hawaii in almost 20 years.
Meanwhile, many Congressmen up for reelection this November seem less than thrilled at the prospect of a visit from Barack “Kiss of Death” Obama.
In a subtly titled article called “Freshmen Run Away From Obama,” CQ Politics cites freshman Pennsylvania Representative Kathy Dahlkemper: “‘You have to be an independent, no matter what…’ Dahlkemper said that while she would be ‘very happy to welcome’ Obama to her district, she didn’t know how much of a help or a hindrance he would be. ‘I just think we don’t quite know yet where his popularity is… I’m much less concerned about who’s going to come in and campaign for me.’”
In everyday language, this political-speak translates as, “Obama had better stay the hell away from my district this year.”
CQ Politics also quotes freshman Colorado Representative Betsey Markey as saying that “she didn’t think it would make much difference either way if the president stumped in her district. ‘It’s always an honor when the president makes an offer to visit. But this is a Colorado race.’” In normal people-talk, this means “Please, Obama, I’m begging you—don’t put on your fake cowboy hat and visit the Rocky Mountains this fall.”
Thus, the growing preference among candidates of both parties who actually face voters this fall seems to be to campaign, not against George Bush, but against Barack Obama.
This whole turn of events leads me to the seemingly absurd but actually logical conclusion that Obama’s best hope in 2012 is to find a way to run against… the first term of President Obama. Why not? It sort of worked for Clinton in 1996.
At least when Obama throws himself under the bus, he’ll be able to do it gently.
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