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. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    There is no reason for dems to shy away from the President. Stop acting like a bunch of sissies and be proud of the accomplishments made. Republicans have no platform to run on except that they voted NO on everything. That's not governing! They've not provided any ideas that will move this country FORWARD. However they've produced ideas to move this country BACKWARDS. All the way back to the 19th century.

    August 3, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. Greg Pottstown PA

    Must be bush's fault. Right libs?

    August 3, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  3. Rushs unseen, unheard, staff are the people he has callin to his show

    It just tells us racial hate is stronger than ever in the South.

    August 3, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  4. DENNA

    Yes, I believe that they are shying away from President Obama much as the Rethugs shied away from Bush. Politicians are animals of a different sort. They only care about being reelected so they are like trees that bend with the wind. I believe that President Obama will be a one-term president because he is actually trying his best to do what is right for America. He is trying his best to keep all those campaign promises that got him elected. We are not accustomed to that from a politician so we don't know what to make of it. Please President Obama, just keep doing doing the good job you are doing for us and don't worry about the next election. If you lose and the Rethugs get back in, we will be all the poorer for it.

    August 3, 2010 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  5. snow

    This is funny. The demorats are linked hand in glove with nobama because they passed his spending plans and take overs with their majority. They cannot run from what they have done against the vast majority of this countries citizens wishes. They had the fun and now in November here comes the pain.

    August 3, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    I have yet to ever hear one Democrat ever support or back the President either. At least the Republicans, right or wrong, will maintain solidarity with their representatives. The Democrats didn't have any problem riding his coattails during the election, but get a little bit of controversy – wow they shut right up and run for cover. When the Republicans and the Teapartiers call him names, etc. has there ever been a Democrat that called them out to support the President, NO.

    August 3, 2010 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  7. Ben in Texas

    Once again, the news organizations take a set of facts and spin them to mean something completely different. President Obama has lost popularity not because he is "too liberal", since he could never be conservative enough to be popular with right wingers. He has lost popularity because he has reneged on his progressive promises, like the public option and stopping the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Obama is less popular today than when he was elected because he has not fulfilled the expectations of Progressives.

    August 3, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  8. Scott in Atlanta

    Shy away if you want to. You'll be kick'n yourselves in the butt like Al Gore was because he "shy'd" away from Bill Clinton in 2000

    What you need to do is rally in support, and actually look like a team.

    August 3, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  9. jeb bush

    you look at the news and see - nine people are dead by gunman . and you ask yourself why? this GOV"T, its corruption and greed from the top down has got the people and the whole country in a frenzy. its no joke people are enraged. obama was elected to maybe to fix this mess but its a stalemate "advantage republicans". immigration has got folks seeing red . this is america and people look around and see it just don't feel the same we are not mexico. you/they –can't come to this country and dictate the united states do anything. but hold on the fear mongers are on a roll and big business, the pentagon and a captial hill thats out of touch with the legal citizens are screaming backlash.

    August 3, 2010 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. LouisianaProud

    If I were a Democrat running for anything, I would deny I even knew who Obama, Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the dems in Congress are.
    They are worse than the dreaded plague.

    August 3, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  11. TTBALA

    Shame on you democrats, I am a democrat and now I am very much ashamed to say that I am, look at the republicans, we had the worst president in the history of this country his ratings were zero, but the republicans stayed unified behind their stupid president, we now have one of the smartest persons as president and we are not proud of this fact and do not support him, all you democrats who act like the president is harming you and do not want to associate with him, I HOPE EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU LOOSES ITS SEATS.

    August 3, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  12. Fed Up

    Only the smart ones. It seems that the candidates that Obama backs are all behind in the polls. Great job!

    August 3, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  13. Tim

    All the fools. Anyone knows that Kool-Aide goes bad once it is exposed to the light of day.

    August 3, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. toughlove

    Obama is too radical for main stream America and too maverick for any employer (us) to condone.

    August 3, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  15. NAM VET

    I have only one question for our president. Why do you only support
    all views except those of us who love our country. I have only one
    suggestion for you. In the best interests of america is for you to put
    your tail between your legs and find a home in a country that will
    tolerate you and your un-american agendas.

    August 3, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  16. Larry

    To answer your loaded headline

    No they are not shying away from him

    He's the biggest draw in this country

    But I guess using false headlines sells news

    The trash magazines have been doing for years

    I guess times are tough even in the news business these days

    August 3, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  17. Gerald

    January 3rd, 2007 was the day the Democrats took over the Senate and the Congress: At the time:
    The DOW Jones closed at 12,621.77
    The GDP for the previous quarter was 3.5%
    The Unemployment rate was 4.6%
    George Bush's Economic policies SET A RECORD of 52 STRAIGHT MONTHS of JOB CREATION! Remember the day...
    January 3rd, 2007 was the day that Barney Frank took over the House Financial Services Committee and Chris Dodd took over the Senate Banking Committee The economic meltdown that happened 15 months later was in what part of the economy?
    BANKING AND FINANCIAL SERVICES!!!
    THANK YOU DEMOCRATS for taking us from 13,000 DOW, 3.5 GDP and 4.6% Unemployment... to this CRISIS by (among MANY other things) dumping 5-6 TRILLION Dollars of toxic loans on the economy from YOUR Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ! (BTW: Bush asked Congress 17 TIMES to stop Fannie & Freddie – starting in 2001 because it was Financially risky for the US economy):
    And who took the THIRD highest pay-off from Fannie Mae AND Freddie Mac???? OBAMA And who fought against reform of Fannie and Freddie??? Obama
    So when a LIB tries to blame Bush. REMEMBER JANUARY 3rd, 2007.... THE DAY THE DEMOCRATS TOOK OVER

    August 3, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  18. Tom-Vermillion, Ohio

    Democrats shying away from Obama? Why? Because of some silly polls? President Obama and the Democratic part of Congress have done much in terms of good for our country. So much so, it is absolutely incredible. Shying away is exactly what the GOP-Tea Party who is much too radical-right-wing conservative for the majority reasonable American Citizens. Don't bow down to those polls in defeat; CHANGE THOSE POLLS!!! You have until November to do it. Polls do not win seats in Congress, election results do! Find the homeless, the under-employed, those who are left out; if necessary, provide transportation to get them to the polls. WHATEVER IT TAKES! The Republicans have so much dirt on them, it should be easy to 'hammer' them to defeat. Do the Democrats really want to see the neo-conservatives take over Congress and thus rule the roost? I hope not. And we the liberal to moderate, the non-extreme will stand with you. Just show as your desire. That's my opinion, for what its worth.

    August 3, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  19. Ben

    Of course they are. They want to get elected don't they? Obama's toxic and everyone knows it.

    August 3, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  20. Toni - Atlanta

    Not all Democrats are shying away from Obama, and to hell with those politicians who do! They seem to forget that they need the Democrat votes, too. I am a Democrat, and I among others, are keeping a watchful eye on them - if they can't support our President, we don't have to vote for them!!!!

    August 3, 2010 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  21. KM

    I thought that the approval rating for congress was lower than the President's. So who should be staying away from who?

    August 3, 2010 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  22. T'SAH from Virginia

    If the Democrats feel they need to SHY AWAY from the President, then they need to LEAVE the party and JOIN the RepubliCAN'Ts!!!!!

    "...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."

    But I bet Barnes will use the money RAISED for his campaign by President Obama??!!!!!

    "There's a lot of Bill Clinton nostalgia these days," Erikson said. "I think people retrospectively look back fondly on his administration..."

    ERIKSON – you speak about an administration that has been long-gone for over 10 years – What would be said about President Obama in 10 years????? You're mixing Apples with Oranges and writing HISTORY before it happens!!! Please!!!!

    August 3, 2010 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  23. Dennis

    Connection with Obama will hurt many Democratic candidates. Robin Carnahan will lose the Senate race in Missouri because Roy Blunt has successfully tied her to Obama.

    August 3, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  24. Orlando Patriot

    If you are a Democrat, and want to get elected, don't walk but RUN as far away as possible from Obama. The truth is not clearly seen (even by those who did not see in November 2008) that this president is INCOMPETENT and his agenda has turned off the majority in this country. This incompetent fool has increased the national debt by over 3 TRILLION DOLLARS (that's right – with a "T"!!) AND increased unemployment by over 3 MILLION JOBS (that's right – with an "M"!!). This loser knows nothing about how an economy works and, in fact, has NEVER EVEN WORKED IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR IN HIS WHOLE LIFE!! How is that possible?

    Regardless, the incompetence of this president is quite clear and Democrats are going to lose a BUNCH of seats in just 90 days. If you are a Democrat running for office your only hope is to publicly denounce Obama and his policies. Then, and only then, you MIGHT have a snowball's chance in hell.

    August 3, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  25. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Does anyone else remember all the Democrats who lost because they didn't want President Clinton to stump for them? Like Al Gore?

    August 3, 2010 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
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