But Republicans argue that Mr. Obama’s declining popularity will translate into a much lower presidential profile on the campaign trail this fall.
Pennsylvania, a state where Mr. Obama won handily in 2008 but where his approval ratings now have fallen below the national average, is a good test case. In a recent special election to replace the late Rep. John P. Murtha, Democrats were able to hold onto a House seat in a competitive southwestern district but Mr. Obama did not campaign there, and new Rep. Mark Critz ran against some of his policies.
Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, noted that Mr. Obama has been to the state five times since taking office, but said it’s unclear whether he would give a boost to the Democrats’ pick for the Senate, Rep. Joe Sestak. Mr. Madonna said he thinks that’s because voters in Pennsylvania elected Mr. Obama to fix the economy — while other parts of his expansive domestic agenda, such as health care reform and the cap-and-trade energy proposal, are acutely unpopular in the Rust Belt state.
Of course, the Sestak case is a special one, given the controversy over former President Bill Clinton’s overtures to the candidate about a possible White House position before his primary race with White House-backed Democratic incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter.
Some red-state Democratic candidates, including embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have tailored their use of the president to fit their districts. Facing a tough primary fight, the incumbent used robocalls and radio advertisements with Mr. Obama’s voice in certain parts of the state, while relying on Mr. Clinton, and not Mr. Obama, as her big gun at campaign rallies.
In Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan blamed a scheduling conflict for not appearing alongside Mr. Obama during a March fundraiser he held for Sen. Claire McCaskill — who’s not up for re-election until 2012, earning taunts from the campaign of Republican rival Rep. Roy Blunt.
But the Democratic senatorial candidate joined Mr. Obama a month later when he returned for a tour of an ethanol plant and made remarks on the economy. It’s a similar story in Ohio, where Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, running for Senate this fall, avoided the president during his two previous trips to the state, but changed course and appeared with Mr. Obama late last week in Ohio to tout the 10,000th road project funded by the president’s economic stimulus package.
Mr. Obama has been most active on behalf of California’s Mrs. Boxer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, though he also has helped raise money for Sen. Michael Bennet, a freshman Colorado Democrat facing both a tough primary and general election. This past February, the president packed three fundraisers into one day, raising as much as $700,000 for Mr. Bennet in Denver and then hopping to Las Vegas, where he raised $1 million appearing with Mr. Reid at a private DNC fundraiser.
Democrats said they would like to see the White House even more engaged, and that Mr. Obama has a lot riding on the results of the election. One Democratic strategist pointed to Republican lawmakers like Rep. Darrell Issa, who could be a real thorn in the administration’s side if Republicans were to win control of the House. In a speech to members of the Pennsylvania GOP, the California Republican and Obama critic vowed to double his staff and take full advantage of his subpoena power to force the White House to turn over documents if he becomes chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, according to Politico.
“I think that story really sort of shapes the stakes here,” the strategist said. “It would be, obviously, just a very grave scenario for the White House.”
Mr. Bush faced a similar situation during the 2006 congressional elections. He was a tremendous fundraiser, and most Republicans were all-too-happy to have him help on that front, but many in the GOP still tried to distance themselves from his policies in public.
According to published reports, from 2007 through July 2008, Mr. Bush raised $134 million and attended about 30 fundraisers for Republican candidates. In the previous election cycle, the Republican National Committee claimed the president had done 50 events and raised more than $160 million for candidates through August 2006.
A Democratic Party official says the party does not compile similar numbers, and Ms. Duffy said there is no way to make a one-to-one comparison with Mr. Obama because there are some donations, such as from lobbyists and political action committees, that he won’t take. She also said he funnels more money through Democratic congressional campaign arms than Mr. Bush did through Republican organizations.View Entire Story
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Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.
Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...
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