August 3rd, 2010
02:11 PM ET
4 years ago

Democrats shying away from Obama?

Disappointing poll numbers have led some Democratic candidates to keep their distance from President Obama on the campaign trail.
Disappointing poll numbers have led some Democratic candidates to keep their distance from President Obama on the campaign trail.

Washington (CNN) – While Democratic candidates have not openly said President Obama is not welcome on the campaign trail, actions speak louder than words.

"Obviously [Obama's] ratings aren't where he wants them to be and that's going to hurt him in some parts of the country," said Robert Erikson, a professor of political science at Columbia University. "So a Democratic candidate will then think that he or she can show their independence best by discreetly not being present [with the president.]"

On Monday, former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, who is running for his old job, was more than 100 miles away when the president was raising funds in Atlanta, Georgia. Barnes' campaign said, according to reports, that he wanted to honor previous obligations to attend campaign events.


The offices of Democratic Reps. Jim Marshall, John Barrow, John Lewis and Hank Johnson gave the Atlanta Journal-Constitution various reasons for not attending.

Recent polling indicates a majority of Georgia voters disapprove of Obama's presidency so far. His approval ratings nationwide, and his handling of the economy, have also dropped.

But it's not just in Georgia where Democratic candidates are failing to work the president into their schedules.

When Obama heads to Austin, Texas, next week, Bill White - the Democratic gubernatorial candidate - is expected to be miles away. White told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he has a busy schedule campaigning and is focused on letting Texans "know who I am." He means no disrespect to the president, White said.

Erikson, who studies elections and voting behavior, said if either Barnes or White is going to win, the strategy should focus on running towards the middle and as their own candidate, "not as a national Democrat."

"That doesn't mean they disavow their party or the president," he said. "They're going to highlight their own accomplishments and their own policies. That's smart politics."

It's a point backed up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Appearing on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Pelosi said that Democratic members are "the best salespersons for their own districts," because they've been elected there and know their constituents.

But Obama has spent time on the trail helping some high-profile Democrats facing re-election trouble. In May, Obama campaigned with Sen. Barbara Boxer in her fight against Republican Carly Fiorina in California.

In July, Obama campaigned for Democrat Robin Carnahan running against Republican Rep. Roy Blunt in Missouri, and for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid running against Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle in Nevada.

But Erikson said the bulk of Democratic Party candidates are trying to send a message that says: " 'I'm an independent voice of the people. ... We don't know that guy over there: Obama.' "

For its part, the White House said Obama will help Democrats in any way possible to help keep his party in control of Congress.

"Rahm Emanuel [White House chief of staff] and his people are going to have a national message about the party's accomplishments, Obama's accomplishments and comparing their party to [George W.] Bush," Erikson said.

"As to whether it sells or not, I don't know. It would be better to try to do that than not have a message at all."

One of those ways is to send former President Bill Clinton out on the trail.

Though even the administration admits that Obama may not necessarily be the best campaigner-in-chief in certain areas of the country, Clinton remains wildly popular among Democrats and independents - especially in the South and swing districts.

"There's a lot of Bill Clinton nostalgia these days," Erikson said. "I think people retrospectively look back fondly on his administration ... particularly in the South where Bill, being a southerner himself, is more popular than the average Democratic figure."

"So I can see why Bill could be helpful in places like Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia."

At the end of his own second presidential term, Clinton - coming off the Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment proceedings - was not pushed by then-presidential hopeful Al Gore to campaign for him in the president's home state of Arkansas, political observers note.

Times were also tough for former President George W. Bush during the 2006 midterm elections - as well as in 2008 - amid high disapproval ratings for himself and his policies.

Though George W. Bush wasn't totally absent from the campaign trail in 2006 and 2008, his visits were geared toward conservative candidates in solidly Republican districts.

"When presidents are not that popular [at midterm election time], the congressional candidates often shy away," Erikson said.


Filed under: 2010 • President Obama
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. diridi

    do not be silly, it is like Al Gore not using pres. Clinton because of Manica Louniski...ok, they he lost....ok, Pres. Obama is doing excellent....just pass this Energy and Climate reform, and immigration reform...good luck...listen to this wise pundit...i am not high school drop nor university...ok, a well educated is writing...for America...good luck...

    August 3, 2010 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. all of America

    The people say it's about time for obama to resign,now ! We have had enough of this chronic liar and socialist dictator. The people in his own party are keeping their distance. They all know he is on a loosing path to the destruction of America ! His agenda is not what the people want .

    August 3, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  3. independent

    President Obama, and his family, can come to dinner at our house anytime, with or withour fund-raising.

    Let me know if you need something non-vegetarian.

    August 3, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  4. gt

    i am sure lincoln from arkasas would run like a razorback hog from obama...

    August 3, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. Malt

    Because Obama doesn't listen to a majority of Americans and his policies are killing any recovery that was supposed to happen in the 3Q of 2009 - yep, the stimulus, 'healthcare' and financial 'reform' have stalled the economy.

    Obama should stop campaigning, fundraising and golfing and start listen to professions in the private sector - oh wait, he hates capitalism and the benefits of a free market.

    To Obama's credit, he still can wow the girls on the View.

    August 3, 2010 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  6. onlysanetexanleft

    Dems better be careful not to shy away too much. They need to remember that the loudest voices of opposition out there are from the tea party and they wouldn't vote for a democrat if it were their own mother. Running away from President Obama and not allowing him to enerygize the millions that turned out because he was on the ballot could create a bloodbath.

    August 3, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  7. geecee

    No one has been a bigger supporter of President Obama than myself, but I have been very disappointed in that he does not use the capacity of his office to the fullest extent possible. He lets everybody make the decisions for him – appoint a commission, let Congress get it passed, wait to see how the crisis plays itself out. Act Now!! Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell by executive order, close GITMO and put the inmates in a prison in an isolated part of this country; go after the Republican smear merchants, i.e. Fake Noise channels, and refute their daily lies. Don't just sit there! Get up and go out and slam them back! This is getting really tiresome. His words are fine, but action speaks louder!!! Get moving man, before we lose the mid-terms and you lose the WH in 2012. Can't you understand that? He is supposed to be a smart man and I do believe he is, but whoever he is listening to is not advising him wisely. His base, which includes me, is getting kind of angry right now. A lot has been accomplished, but a lot more needs to be done. Not just jobs. There are things he can do, and things he can't do right away. So, he can't create jobs immediately, but at least do the things you can do, now, right away, don't wait for some Commission to come back a year later with a suggestion! Do it now, for the good of the Country. End the wars, bring our troops home, let them become Border Patrol agents, or policeman and protect our inner cities and OUR borders from terrorists – just do something, please!!

    August 3, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    Oh brother CNN.............. really??????????? The Democrats, I know, are still supporting President Obama .........100%.

    In NOvember vote NO for the Party of NO....... ideas, solutions, heart, etc.

    August 3, 2010 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. Debbie Gomez

    I can understand this happening in usually conservative areas of the country, but I still think it's ironic considering how many new Dems won their seats in 2008 only BECAUSE of Obama. All those straight ticket voters are how a lot of those Dems were elected. And while I know that Obama's poll numbers are lower now, they are still higher than Clinton's were at this point in his presidency, and higher than Ronald Reagan's were. And although I myself am a Dem who still wholeheartedly supports Obama, I have many friends who are either Independents or Republicans. Ask them what they think about 2012 and almost unanimously they say they'll vote for Obama absent a really strong candidate from their own party. Nobody I know on the other side can name someone in their party they'd vote for right now, and I think that's noteworthy. So, the Dems may lose control in November, but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. I'd rather them lose control of Congress than the White House. As a Dem, I have alot more faith in HIM than I do in THEM (Congress).

    August 3, 2010 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
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