WASHINGTON – The conventional wisdom espoused by the mainstream media is Democrats polling poorly in this year’s midterm elections are distancing themselves from President Obama, a sentiment captured vividly in an editorial in the Los Angeles Times Thursday describing how, “Democratic candidates are racing away from Obama like Wile E. Coyote running from a lighted stick of dynamite.”
In fact, a closer look reveals, rather than running away from him, many Democrats are running against the president, often lambasting Obama with scathing rhetoric one might expect to come from only Republicans and almost uniformly putting as much daylight between themselves and his policies as possible.
This is especially true in key races that will decide control of the Senate, as illustrated by recent quotes from Democratic candidates.
- “Let me tell you, the White House, when they look down the front lawn the last person they want to see coming is me,” warned Democrat Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado during a debate.
- Sen. Mark Begich, the Democratic incumbent from Alaska, at least admitted to voting for Obama, but quickly added in a newspaper interview that his vote was “irrelevant” because, “The president’s not relevant. He’s gone in two years.” But he didn’t stop there, promising the Washington Post, “I’ll be a thorn in his [posterior],” adding, “There’s times when I’m a total thorn, you know, and he doesn’t appreciate it.” Going even further, the senator insisted he “took on Obama” to fight for oil drilling in Alaska and would “bang him (the president) over the head a few times” on the need to drill.
- Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas paused during his debate before making his closing statement to make sure everyone knew, “I voted against every budget that President Obama has offered.”
- Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu made a point of emphasizing during her debate, “I do not agree with President Obama on his energy policies,” later adding, “I haven’t agreed with President Obama on everything.” She also damned the president with faint praise, giving his job performance a “6-to-7” out of 10.
- When asked on MSNBC last week if she thought the president had “shown strong leadership,” Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina hedged a bit before conceding, “Certainly there are issues I think on … um, no.”
- Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in his debate, singled out the president’s response to the Ebola crisis for criticism, saying, “I think the administration should have acted quicker.”
- Kentucky Democratic hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes refused to say during an interview whether she even voted for Obama in 2012, then doubled-down on distancing herself from the president during her debate, calling it her “constitutional right” to stay mum.
- Ultra-leftist Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota found occasion to distance himself from the president when he wrote a letter to Obama in September saying he “was troubled by the president’s recent suggestion that the administration has not yet developed a comprehensive strategy to address the growing threat of ISIL’s activities in Syria.”
- During her debate in New Hampshire, Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was asked if she approved of Obama’s job performance, “Yes or no?” The incumbent evoked a wave of laughter from the audience when she responded instead, “In some things I approve and in some things I don’t approve.”
- And even the one Democrat running for the Senate who has invited the president to appear with him on the campaign trail is still keeping an arm’s length from Obama, as Gary Peters less-than-enthusiastically observed, “The president will come to Michigan to campaign, and I’m going to stand next to the president.” Peters also conceded in an interview he had areas of disagreement with Obama.
Obama is mired at a paltry 41.2 percent job approval rating in the polls, but he apparently decided at the start of this month it was a good tactic to declare the election was a referendum on his policies, unequivocally stating, “Make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”
However, it’s not just Republicans running against the president and his policies. It is almost every single Democrat in a dozen key states.
Republicans need to gain a net total of six seats to win control of the Senate in the election on Nov. 4.
And, in 11 of the 12 key Senate races, Democrats (and one independent) are running ads that criticize the president, his policies or “Washington.”
Arguably, the most blatantly anti-Obama ad by a Democrat comes from Grimes in Kentucky, who wanted to make sure no one missed the point, by outright declaring, “I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.”
Pryor of Arkansas made it clear, “I oppose President Obama’s gun-control legislation.” And, in case anyone missed the point, he added, “No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do.”
Pushing oil drilling in Alaska, Begich informed voters, “Sooner or later, Washington will figure out that I don’t take no for an answer.”
Another ad for the Democrat proclaimed, “As senator, he took on Obama to fix Alaska’s VA, exempt our schools from No Child Left Behind and is taking responsibility for fixing the health care law so it works for Alaska.”
Landrieu starkly claimed, “The administration’s policies are simply wrong, when it comes to oil and gas production in this nation.”
In another ad, the Louisiana senator said she fought Obama to let people “keep their health plans.”
A Udall ad described him as “a real maverick” who took on Obama over NSA spying, with the Coloradan proclaiming, “I won’t tolerate it.”
Georgia’s Nunn was indignant that her Republican opponent would even run an ad with a photo of her standing next to Obama, characterizing it as misleading because it was at an event honoring President George H.W. Bush. In the ad, she claimed, “Throughout my career I’ve been able to work with Republicans and Democrats. … It’s time to put politics aside and do what’s best for our country.”
An ad from New Hampshire’s Shaheen featured a newspaper clipping with a headline reading, “Senator urges Obama to ‘dismantle’ ISIS’s finances.”
Hagan of North Carolina portrayed herself as anti-illegal immigration and anti-Washington with an ad that called for “An independent voice … reaching across party lines to ban driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants,” adding, “The U.S. Senate needs a leader who will finally put independent thinking and middle-class families before the Washington special interests.”
Peters, although agreeing to appear at an upcoming event in Michigan with Obama, still attempted to portray himself as a rebel running against Democrats with an ad that described him as, “an independent leader, breaking with his own party, stopping Congress from giving itself a pay raise.”
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., has run so far from the president and his own party that he ran an endorsement from a Republican – the man he replaced – former Sen. John Warner (no relation.)
And without a Democrat in the race, the independent candidate in Kansas, Greg Orman, has been at liberty to blast the policies of both parties. However, he chose to target a key administration policy in an ad that promised to help secure the border and oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants.
The GOP is widely expected to retain control of the House of Representatives, with the Washington Post putting the odds of that at greater than 99 percent.
The conventional wisdom also has the Republicans heavily favored to pick up enough seats to take control of the Senate away from the Democrats.
- The Washington Post’s election model gives Republicans a 91 percent chance.
- The New York Times predicts there is a 64 percent chance.
- And, the highly respected data-analysis website FiveThirtyEight gives the GOP a 62 percent chance.
However, two of those odds are down significantly from when WND reported them last week, when the Post percentage stood at 96 and the Times at 71. (FiveThirtyEight slightly increased its odds of the GOP taking the Senate, from 61 to 62 percent.)
And, as WND noted at the time, the odds greatly favoring Republicans could be deceptive, because many of the leads in individual Senate races were so thin, which is still true this week. Real Clear Politics rates nine of the races as toss-ups, with no lead greater than 4.3 percent and most races significantly closer than that.
The crucial difference in each race could be slight and, increasingly, political analysts predict the difference could be Obama.
There are many issues in this year’s election: the economy, Ebola, immigration, ISIS, homegrown terrorism, Obamacare, the administration’s scandals.
But with so many issues, there isn’t a single defining issue in the election – no common theme. There is one common factor, though, and that is the president. It may turn out to be the deciding difference.
With the race coming down to the wire, the Washington Post ran an AP story Friday that began: “Republicans have a one-size fits-all counter-argument. It’s Barack Obama, a two-term president they’ve turned into a political punching bag and pummeled at will while Democrats avert their eyes.”
Politico ran a story headlined, “Obama moves key Senate races toward GOP.”
“I think Obama being so unpopular is the biggest factor in this election,” Tom Jensen, a Democratic pollster with the firm Public Policy Polling told the website. “And I think at the end of the day, it may be too much for a lot of the Democratic Senate candidates to overcome.”
The president’s campaign guru, David Axelrod, told NBC’s “Meet The Press” it was a “mistake” for Obama to claim his policies were on the ballot.
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz refused to acknowledge to MSNBC the vote was a referendum on the president, saying instead, “Barack Obama was on the ballot in 2012 and 2008.”
The last word on the subject may have come from the president himself last Monday, when, during a radio interview with Al Sharpton, a perhaps Machiavellian-sounding Obama told Democrats, “You do what you need to do to win.”
Follow Garth Kant @DCgarth