January 29th, 2014
12:44 PM ET
11 months ago

Is Obama toxic to Democrats facing tough re-elections?

Washington (CNN) - When it comes to the 2014 midterm elections, Harry Reid and Mark Begich don't appear to be on the same page.

Reid, the Senate majority leader and Democrat from Nevada, says "Barack Obama is personally a very popular guy."


Asked by CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash if he would encourage some of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election this November to invite the President to appear with them, Reid said "Yes. And they will."

But Begich, the Democrat from red-state Alaska who faces a challenging bid for second term in the Senate, feels differently.

"I'm not really interested in campaigning" with Obama if the President came to Alaska, he said.

"If he wants to come up there and learn about Alaska, bring it on. I'll drag him around, I'll show him what he ever he wants to see, but I want to show him and convince him some of his policies are not the right direction. I don't need him campaigning for me. I need him to change some of his policies," Begich told Bash and CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper soon after Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

"We've had our differences," added Begich, in describing his relationship with Obama.

It was a similar story from Sen. Mark Udall. The Colorado Democrat is also up for re-election, but his seat isn't considered that vulnerable as of now.

In an interview with Bash, Udall refused to say whether he'd like some help on the campaign trail if the President comes to Colorado, a purple state that Obama won in both the 2008 and 2012.

"We'll see what the President's schedule is, what my schedule is. But Coloradans are going to re-elect me based on my record, not the President's record," Udall said.

Bash persisted, but Udall stuck to his initial response.

"Let's see what the schedule allows. I'm running for re-election, not the President," he said.

Is Obama a help or a hindrance

Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana both have made news in the recent months by not appearing with Obama when he’s held an event in their state.

Both face challenging re-election campaigns in GOP friendly states.

Republicans are highlighting such instances as proof that Obama is toxic for vulnerable Democrats in red or purple states.

"President Obama's average approval rating in 2014 battleground states is 36%. Yet Harry Reid assures us that Democrats like Kay Hagan, Mark Begich, Mark Udall and Mary Landrieu will be proud to campaign around their states by his side. We don't say this often, but we wholeheartedly agree with the Mr. Reid, the future minority leader, and hope he is right," Brad Dayspring, the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s communications director, told CNN.

America Rising, a pro-Republican opposition research shop, was quick to blast out the Udall interview.

"Democrats can avoid campaigning with Obama, but what they can't run away from is every vulnerable Democrat senator voted at least 90 percent of the time to support the President's agenda," said America Rising's Tim Miller.

National Democrats disagree.

"Democratic Senate candidates won in half of the states Mitt Romney won in the last election proving that Senate races are not a referendum on the President or on any one, single issue but a choice between the two candidates on the ballot," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Deputy Executive Director Matt Canter told CNN.

"In each competitive Senate races, there is a crystal clear contrast between a Democratic candidate who is focused on creating opportunity for the middle class and is willing to disagree with their own party leadership when they think it is right for their state and a Republican candidate who is beholden to the Tea Party, the Koch brothers, and a small group of right wing billionaires that support an agenda that is dangerous for the middle class," Canter added.

The Democrats currently have a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party), but are defending 21 of the 36 seats up for grabs in November's midterm elections. And half of those seats are located in red or purple states.

And the Democrats will have to defend five open seats, where senators have announced they are retiring rather than run for re-election. Four of those five seats hail from red or purple states. The GOP's only defending three open seats, which are all located in states where the GOP has the upper hand.

The White House pushes back against the storyline that a President with a 43% national approval rating is more of a hindrance than a help to fellow Democrats.

Questioned by CNN Senior White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar about Hagan's decision to stay in Washington rather than accompany Obama to her home state of North Carolina, White House spokesman Jay Carney said "this isn't a campaign event, Brianna. I understand, having been there, the urgent desire to turn every story 10 months out into an election story."

It's not just a handful of Democratic Senators  who may not want the President's help as they bid to stay on Capitol Hill.

When Obama visits a gas engine plane in southeast Wisconsin on Thursday, he won't be joined by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, who's hoping to unseat GOP Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 Republican presidential hopeful. She'll be campaigning on the other side of the state.

"Location, location, location," said CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "There will be places where the President can be of tremendous help. Unfortunately for people in purple or red states, those are not the states where the President can help.

"I wouldn't call this some big showdown. President Obama will be very happy to stay away from Colorado and Alaska or anywhere else if it helps him keep the Senate majority Democrat," added Crowley, anchor of CNN's "State of the Union."


Filed under: 2014 • Harry Reid • Mark Begich • Mark Udall • President Obama
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    I guess Begich has yet to realize that running from a charge is almost a tacit admission of guilt. Running from a pack of lies only breathes new life and credibility into the lies, spawining even more lies.

    January 29, 2014 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  2. Terry b

    Hmmmm, nazi party or democrat party? Not much of a choice!

    January 29, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  3. John, PA

    You bet Obama is toxic; Democratic candidates will avoid him like the plague; that is if the candidate wants any chance of a win. The Democratic candidates still have an uphill battle given the last 5 years of lies and the debt and depression created in America!

    January 29, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  4. much thunder...little rain

    oh he is about as toxic as george bush was thats all...

    January 29, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  5. yolanda

    Same thing happened with Bush. Nothing new here. The rhetoric will become deafening from both sides. Snore.....

    January 29, 2014 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  6. Fair is Fair

    "I wouldn't call this some big showdown. President Obama will be very happy to stay away from Colorado and Alaska or anywhere else if it helps him keep the Senate majority Democrat," added Crowley, anchor of CNN's "State of the Union."
    --------
    Hahahahahahahahahaha... yeah, that about sums it up. Obama should be tellig so-called "safe dems" that "I'll stay the hell out of Dodge" so he doesn't screw them over too.

    January 29, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Terry b

    Hmmmm, nazi party or democrat party? Not much of a choice!
    -------------------------
    Yeah, you're forced to vote "democrat" party. Don't know what happened to the Republicans, but you seem to be onto something.

    January 29, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  8. The Real Tom Paine

    John, PA

    You bet Obama is toxic; Democratic candidates will avoid him like the plague; that is if the candidate wants any chance of a win. The Democratic candidates still have an uphill battle given the last 5 years of lies and the debt and depression created in America!

    **********************************

    Then lets see how well the Simon-pure GOP House fares, even with gerrymandered districts. What are they running on? Certainly new ideas or approaches is not one of them. Bipartisanship? They even utter the word, they get primaried.

    January 29, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  9. Rick McDaniel

    It would seem that he would HAVE to be a negative to the Dems. He has been a total failure. His signature accomplishment is a train wreck. He has NOTHING else........so where does that leave him after 5 yrs........but a liability to others?

    January 29, 2014 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. anonymous

    Rick McDaniel
    It would seem that he would HAVE to be a negative to the Dems. He has been a total failure. His signature accomplishment is a train wreck. He has NOTHING else........so where does that leave him after 5 yrs........but a liability to others?
    --

    And a liability to this country for another 3 years.... sigh.

    January 29, 2014 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  11. SpgfldTom

    Reminder Dems, you voted for ObamaCare (not a single Republican did) now you owe it. Good luck explaining that to the unwashed masses back home who have lost their healthcare coverage and/or are paying 100% for their premiums. Not even granting amnesty and voting rights to 11 million criminals will save you in the mid terms.

    January 29, 2014 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  12. Gunderson

    What,
    Not Campaign with AWOL? Summer Soldiers? Old Gunderson not understand. Why you no want AWOL around? Oh, sorry. Harry Truman say, if you can't stand the heat stay out of kitchen. Savvy, no? Hey you like your Prez you can keep him, no?

    January 29, 2014 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  13. Wake up People!

    I thought this was a liberal news site?? I'm sure FOX, Sr. would never refer to Bush as toxic.....

    January 29, 2014 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    SpgfldTom

    Reminder Dems, you voted for ObamaCare (not a single Republican did) now you owe it. Good luck explaining that to the unwashed masses back home who have lost their healthcare coverage and/or are paying 100% for their premiums.
    -----------------------------
    "paying 100%"? You need to get your talking points straightened out there, skipper. I though all liberals were supposed to be getting "free stuff", including free government health care that hard working people like have to pay for. Now, which is it? Are they paying their fair share, or are you paying it for them?

    January 29, 2014 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  15. anonymous

    Wake up People!
    I thought this was a liberal news site?? I'm sure FOX, Sr. would never refer to Bush as toxic.....
    -–

    oh really.... most people think it is just a news site. did you mistake cnn for msnbc?

    January 29, 2014 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  16. just saying

    obama and obamacare will be no more toxic than he and it was in 2010. then again, now it is actually out in the open and causing real damage to tens of millions of americans. yeah, i guess the democrats are pretty much screwed. but they should all remember that they did it to themselves. that is the price you pay for not doing your job and blindly following your far left misleaders right off the cliff without reading the bill.

    January 29, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |