The race is literally on, race that is as in election campaign race, by a growing pack of Democrats to duck President Obama. In fact it's gotten almost embarrassing more so to the fainthearted Democrats than Obama. How else can it be put when several Democratic Senators flatly tell Obama that they will not appear with him? Another tells him that she can't make time to attend an event he appeared at in her state. And yet another one said that he didn't know whether he'd appear with the President or not but made it clear that he would win on his own record not Obama's.
Their sprint from Obama is of course driven by their near manic political fear. Fear of Obama's plunged poll popularity numbers, identification with his signature Affordable Care Act, and a huge saber rattle of them by the GOP for allegedly hugging to close to Obama's legislative program. This supposedly tags these Democrats as at best ripe for the political pickings and at worst political turncoats since they hold office in states that are other than their offices considered lock down red states.
Obama for his part says he's not offended by the cold shoulder from these Democrats and chalked it up to political expediency, namely an elected official doing whatever it takes to keep his or her seat, up to and including blowing off the titular head of their party. It's hardly new. Bush was considered toxic by some Republicans in 2008 and they were not shy about telling him to stay away. But there's a lightyear's difference between Bush and Obama.
Bush was discredited and even widely loathed. The public blamed him and the GOP for two failed, flawed, costly wars, for making a shambles of an economy, the endless chain of sex and corruption scandals, and an unprecedented giveaway to Wall Street. It took nearly eight years and two terms for Republicans up for reelection to figure out that Bush was a political plague to be avoided at all costs.
Obama in stark contrast has racked up an impressive string of legislative victories and accomplishments all in the face of withering, relentless and very loudly declared obstructionism from the GOP. The Democrats that dash from Obama make a grave mistake in regarding this near loon partisan political assault as any kind of bellwether of public opinion and that includes opinion in their states. Obamacare is a near textbook example. Not one opinion poll has shown that a majority of Americans want the Act quashed, and that includes a majority in the red states, many of whom are uninsured or grossly underinsured and stand to benefit from its provisions. But to hear the GOP leaders tell it, that's exactly what the majority of Americans want.
This is only the start of the Democrat's error on Obama and the issues. An agreement on budget and deficit reduction and debt ceiling deals, unemployment insurance extension, a hike in the minimum wage, rethinking the drug war, checking greenhouse emissions, and ending the grotesque income equality, and the need for bi-partisan congressional cooperation are just a few of the major policy issues that Obama has pushed and that a clear majority of Americans support.
Beyond the political issues, there's the issue of money. Democrats have boasted that they have a bulging lead over the GOP in campaign cash for the mid-term elections in the key swing states. But that bulge has either shrunk or been completely wiped out in some of these states. The GOP has capitalized on the Democratic incumbents' perceived political vulnerability and ratcheted up their pitch to donors. A big reason for the funding surge is precisely because Democratic candidates are blistered as supposedly dishonest, wishy-washy, and timid, in trying to mask their vote and support for Obama's initiatives. The truth is that while Obama has touted these issues they are firm Democratic Party initiatives and have gotten the traction they have because they enjoy widespread popular support.
Then there's the huge element of hypocrisy. The scared stiff Democrats didn't have a problem cheerleading Obama when they could bask in his soaring approval ratings immediately after his re-election. Nor did they put their hands deep in their pockets and say no to any of the cash that Obama plopped into Democratic races, and the many fundraising pitches that he has made for Democratic candidates and incumbents.
There's little evidence so far that simply telling Obama to stay home or them staying home when he appears in their state will in any way transform a Democratic incumbent into a sure winner. Or, not appearing with Obama will transform them into a sure winner. But there is plenty of precedent that shows when a party rejects its own leader the message that's sent is that this is a party that's not only running from a president, but that the initiatives and legislation that he backed and the party backed in some ways is not worth owning up to let alone fighting for. Ducking Obama only makes things worse.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.