Down ticket, few reach for Obama’s coat­tails

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Pres­i­dent Obama’s hope-and­change coali­tion pow­ered his party to wins up and down the ticket in 2008, but the cam­paign this year has taken on a far more self-serv­ing fo­cus, as both Mr. Obama’s cam­paign and his fel­low Democrats see ben­e­fits in keep­ing their space from each other.

From Vir­ginia to Ohio to Ari­zona, the pres­i­dent’s 2008 magic has worn off. He never men­tioned his Capi­tol Hill al­lies in his ad­dress at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion and hasn’t been as fo­cused on cam­paign­ing for them this time.

“He doesn’t have the coat­tails he had in ’08,” said Quentin Kidd, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Christo­pher New­port Univer­sity in New­port News, Va. “Pres­i­dent Obama doesn’t seem to like pol­i­tics to me. Nixon didn’t like it ei­ther. When you’re that kind of per­son­al­ity, it isn’t fun.”

On the re­verse side, many of his fel­low Democrats — even those he es­sen­tially re­cruited to run — are keep­ing him at arm’s length. That is the case in Ari­zona, where for­mer Sur­geon Gen­eral Richard Car­mona, an in­de­pen­dent turned Demo­crat, is run­ning against Repub­li­can Rep. Jeff Flake, and where Mr. Car­mona is happy not to have to worry about the pres­i­dent cam­paign­ing there.

“Ari­zona’s ac­tu­ally pretty in­su­lated from the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. That’s given us a sta­bil­ity, both us and the Flake cam­paign, to present our own mes­sage and a cleaner abil­ity to present our own mes­sage, com­pared to other states,” a Car­mona cam­paign of­fi­cial said.

It marks a big turn­around from 2008, when Democrats won big in down-ticket races in Ari­zona, even as fa­vorite son Sen. John McCain was win­ning the state in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion against Mr. Obama.

That year, Democrats took a 5-3 ad­van­tage in the state’s con­gres- sional del­e­ga­tion, in­clud­ing de­liv­er­ing a seat to Ann Kirk­patrick, who then voted for Mr. Obama’s eco­nomic stim­u­lus pack­age and health care over­haul, though she bucked much of her party by op­pos­ing the bank and auto in­dus­try bailouts and by vot­ing against a fi­nan­cial-reg­u­la­tions pack­age.

She lost her 2010 re-elec­tion bid and is now run­ning again, though Republicans say she is do­ing her best to avoid ties to Mr. Obama.

“The pres­i­dent is ab­sent from any of her last two cam­paigns,” said Bar­rett Mar­son, a spokesman for her Repub­li­can op­po­nent, Jonathan Pa­son. “You wouldn’t know who was pres­i­dent, and you wouldn’t know he was the leader of her party by look­ing at her ma­te­rial.”

Mul­ti­ple calls to Ms. Kirk­patrick’s cam­paign of­fice re­sulted in a mes­sage say­ing that the voice mail had not yet been set up, and a re­quest for com­ment via email was not re­turned.

Nei­ther Mr. Car­mona nor Ms. Kirk­patrick has to worry about join­ing Mr. Obama at cam­paign ral­lies in Ari­zona be­cause he is con­trol of the state House for the first time since 1994. (Republicans re­claimed con­trol in 2010.)

This year, Mr. Obama has cam­paigned ex­ten­sively in Ohio, and reg­u­larly asks sup­port­ers to boost some fel­low Democrats. Sen. Sher­rod Brown and Rep. Marcy Kap­tur — both firmly in their party’s lib­eral wing — have re­ceived the most men­tions from Mr. Obama at re­cent events.

The Ohio Demo­cratic Party didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nomi-

“He doesn’t have the coat­tails he had in ’08,” said Quentin Kidd, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Christo­pher New­port Univer­sity in New­port News, Va. “Pres­i­dent Obama doesn’t seem to like pol­i­tics to me. Nixon didn’t like it ei­ther.

When you’re that kind of per­son­al­ity, it isn’t fun.”

not ac­tively cam­paign­ing there. But in states such as Ohio and Vir­ginia, vul­ner­a­ble Democrats face such chal­lenges as Mr. Obama criss­crosses the swing states and mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of his ads blare on tele­vi­sion and ra­dio.

In 2008, Mr. Obama car­ried Vir­ginia, the first Demo­crat to do so in 44 years. Democrats also man­aged to wrest con­trol of the state’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion from Republicans.

Mr. Obama’s vic­tory also turned Ohio from red to blue and Democrats, in the process, flipped two U.S. House seats and took nee Mitt Rom­ney is try­ing to ex­tend his own coat­tails, reg­u­larly ask­ing for sup­port for his party’s con­gres­sional can­di­dates.

“All those down-ticket folks are men­tioned, and thanked, just as they were in 2008,” said Matt Hen­der­son, a spokesman for the Ohio Repub­li­can Party. “In terms of ‘Does it help them?’ The peo­ple are com­ing to these ral­lies to hear Mitt Rom­ney. Of course it’s go­ing to help, but so does hav­ing an ‘R’ next to your name on the bal­lot.”

That’s not the case in the lib­eral states of the North­east, even though Mr. Rom­ney’s high­est po­lit­i­cal of­fice was as gover­nor of Mas­sachusetts.

Though Sen. Scott P. Brown, Mas­sachusetts Repub­li­can, en­dorsed Mr. Rom­ney, he barely men­tions his state’s ex-gover­nor on the cam­paign trail, opt­ing in­stead to tout his own record as “the sec­ond most bi­par­ti­san mem­ber of the Se­nate.”

Repub­li­can Linda McMa­hon, run­ning again for a Se­nate seat in Con­necti­cut, re­cently cut an ad fea­tur­ing peo­ple who are vot­ing for her — as well as Mr. Obama.

“The ter­rain the can­di­date op­er­ates on de­fines the kind of cam­paign they run,” said Kyle Kondik, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia’s Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics.

Some can­di­dates, though, will have a tougher time dis­tanc­ing them­selves from the top of their ticket.

In Vir­ginia, for­mer Gov. Tim Kaine served as the pres­i­dent’s hand-picked chair­man of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee from 2009 to 2011 and spoke with Mr. Obama be­fore de­cid­ing to run for the seat of re­tir­ing Sen. Jim Webb.

Mr. Kaine has tried to stake out some dif­fer­ences be­tween him­self and Mr. Obama, but there is not much dis­tance be­tween the two in the polls: The lat­est Real Clear Pol­i­tics av­er­age has Mr. Obama tied with Mr. Rom­ney in Vir­ginia and Mr. Kaine ahead by 2 points against Repub­li­can Ge­orge Allen.

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