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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Vulnerable Democrats must ‘run their own race’

Gives leeway to disagree publicly with President Obama on hot-button issues

- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2014

Vulnerable Senate Democrats are increasingly running against the White House when it comes to issues like Obamacare and the Keystone XL pipeline, but Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Sunday that she isn’t concerned.

“What’s the case is that each of these candidates have to run their own race,” Mrs. Wasserman Schultz, who heads the Democratic National Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They have to talk about and focus on the issues that are important to their constituents.”

Her comments come as Senate Democrats in a half-dozen close races move to distance themselves from President Obama and his low approval ratings in an election season widely viewed as favoring Republicans.

For example, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire moved to qualify her earlier support for the Affordable Care Act in a February interview on WKXL-AM radio in Concord, saying that she was committed to fixing parts of Obamacare “that aren’t working.”

“I would have designed it differently if I had been designing it; unfortunately I wasn’t the person who was writing the law. I think hindsight is always 20/20. You always know that you could have done better,” Ms. Shaheen said.

In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall told Denver’s KOA-AM in March that he would vote for Obamacare again, but that, “I think, look, if I were there, I would say, ‘Here are some things that we should have done differently, here are some things that make more sense.’”

Any effort at party congeniality evaporated Friday after Mr. Obama announced another delay in making a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, blasted the president’s decision, calling it “irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable.”

“By making it clear that they will not move the process forward until there’s a resolution in a lawsuit in Nebraska, the administration is sending a signal that the small minority who oppose the pipeline can tie up the process in court forever,” said Ms. Landrieu in a statement.

Ms. Landrieu was one of 11 Senate Democrats signed a letter earlier this month urging Mr. Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline by the end of May. Also signing the letter were another five Democrats facing tough reelection challenges in red states, including Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Sen. John Walsh of Montana, and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.

Mr. Begich said in a Friday statement that he was “frankly appalled by the continued foot-dragging by this administration on the Keystone project.”

Mrs. Wasserman Schultz said that the Keystone decision is “complex,” but insisted that the president’s decision would not be based on politics.

Critics have accused Mr. Obama of putting off a decision on the issue until after the Nov. 4 election, even though the delay may hurt Senate Democrats in tough contests.

“As a member of Congress who represents hundreds of thousands of people in south Florida, I want to make sure that the right decision is arrived at,” said Mrs. Wasserman Schultz. “The president makes that decision carefully and he doesn’t factor politics into his decision.”

History shows that the president’s party typically loses seats in mid-term elections, but Mrs. Wasserman Schultz argued Republicans are being bogged down by contested primaries featuring conservative challengers.

“You have the Republican Party who is strangled by the tea party,” she said. “They are weighed down by Republican primaries in which the tea party candidates are the likely winners. And we have countless elections now that Democrats have won because the Republicans have nominated extremists that their voters reject.”

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