Trick or treat: Democrats run­ning scared from Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY JOSEPH CURL

There’s “keep­ing your dis­tance,” and then there’s cross­ing to the other side of the street, pulling your hat down over your eyes and pre­tend­ing you don’t see that an­noy­ing neigh­bor you’d rather not chat with at the mo­ment.

Democrats are in the lat­ter camp, flee­ing Pres­i­dent Obama in droves now — and in highly em­bar­rass­ing ways. Mean­while, a plead­ing, needy, clingy pres­i­dent is in­sist­ing that not only is he rel­e­vant, he’s loved by the very Democrats who want noth­ing to do with him.

Midterm elec­tions in a pres­i­dent’s sec­ond term are al­ways a bit weird. The day after the elec­tion, whether he likes it or not, he be­comes a lame duck and the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tion be­gins. But usu­ally, the pres­i­dent still wields some power and can lever­age that into ac­tion on his agenda.

But 2014 is dif­fer­ent. Very dif­fer­ent. Democrats are in open re­volt — some claim they wouldn’t rec­og­nize this “Pres­i­dent Obama” guy if they tripped over him.

At least four Democrats seek­ing House or Se­nate seats refuse to say whether they voted for Can­di­date Obama in 2008 or 2012.

Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska pre­tended he didn’t hear the ques­tion and sim­ply walked away. Rep. Natalie Ten­nant of West Vir­ginia would say only that she voted for the “Demo­cratic Party” (FYI, Natalie, a guy named Barack Obama was at the very top of that bal­lot). Michelle Nunn, asked who she voted for, let a staffer step in to say, “Would you leave her alone?” A sup­porter an­swered for her.

And in the most clumsy at­tempt to flee any re­la­tion­ship with Mr. Obama, can­di­date Ali­son Lun­der­gan Grimes has re­peat­edly re­fused to say whether she voted for him. In a de­bate with her op­po­nent, Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, the Demo­crat said “This is a mat­ter of prin­ci­ple. Our con­sti­tu­tion grants, here in Ken­tucky, the con­sti­tu­tional right for pri­vacy of the bal­lot box, for a se­cret bal­lot.”

She went on (and on). “I am not go­ing to com­pro­mise a con­sti­tu­tional right pro­vided here in Ken­tucky in or­der to curry fa­vor on one or other side, or for mem­bers of the me­dia, I’ll pro­tect that right for ev­ery Ken­tuck­ian.”

Em­bar­rass­ing for her, sure, but equally em­bar­rass­ing for the pres­i­dent, who has been left try­ing to con­vince vot­ers that even though his fel­low Democrats are run­ning for the hills, they still support his ev­ery move.

“The bot­tom line is though, th­ese are all folks who vote with me, they have sup­ported my agenda in Congress, they are on the right side of min­i­mum wage, they are on the right side of fair pay, they are on the right side of re­build­ing our in­fra­struc­ture, they’re on the right side of early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion,” Mr. Obama said this week.

The pres­i­dent took a very real risk when he de­clared last week that he and his agenda are on the bal­lot this Nov. 4. While his pop­u­lar­ity has dipped into the 30s re­cently, Democrats were hop­ing that he would just dis­ap­pear for cam­paign sea­son and let them try to hang on any way they can.

Nor­mally, that’s the way midterms in sec­ond pres­i­den­tial terms work. But Mr. Obama has forced can­di­dates into openly con­tra­dict­ing him. “The pres­i­dent is not on the bal­lot this year,” said Mrs. Grimes, who also says in one of her cam­paign ads: “I’m not Barack Obama.”

Even Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz, chair­man of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, doesn’t want any­one to think the midterms are about Mr. Obama. Asked if a vote for a Demo­crat would be a vote for the con­tin­u­a­tion of Mr. Obama’s poli­cies, she said: “Barack Obama was on the bal­lot in 2012 and 2008.” She’ll no doubt be look­ing for a job come Nov. 5.

With Hal­loween right around the cor­ner, maybe Mr. Obama can don a Bill Clin­ton mask and hit the cam­paign trail.

Joseph Curl cov­ered the White House and pol­i­tics for a decade for The Wash­ing­ton Times. He can be reached at and on Twit­ter @josephcurl.

Pres­i­dent Obama

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