President Obama is so toxic to Democrats that even his own one-time sycophantic aides are saying, “Who?”
In fact, the Great Orator who promised to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet has all but disappeared on the campaign trail, lost for words that can stop the tsunami set to surge over his Democratic Party.
“If he doesn’t get more involved in raising money and making this a choice you lose the Senate,” former press spokesman Robert Gibbs said this week. “And if you lose the Senate, turn out the lights because the party’s over.”
Uh, problem: Many of the most embattled Democrats in this November’s election, facing uphill sledding in states where the president got crushed in 2012, don’t want him around. The New York Times even said one Democratic lawmaker called Mr. Obama “poisonous” to the party’s candidates. The New York Times!
It’s more than seven months until the midterms, but a perfect storm seems to brewing: The president’s approval ratings are hovering at near-record lows; conservatives are bringing in record amounts of cash, and spending heavily, early; the battlefield is severely tilted toward Republicans, with 17 competitive Senate races, 15 of which the seats are held by Democrats; and the wayward GOP leadership seems to have (finally!) figured out how to play Obamacare.
Oh, and one more thing: The Tea Party, which voted in 63 new Republican House members in the last mid-term election, is still out there — and madder than ever (despite reports in the mainstream media about its untimely demise).
Mr. Gibbs wasn’t the only former Obama aide to distance himself from what surely looks like an embarrassing debacle on the horizon. Former election adviser David Plouffe warned that 2014 could be a flashback worse than any bad LSD trip.
“We have a turnout issue,” he said on Bloomberg TV last weekend. “This is a screaming siren that the same problems that afflicted us [in 2010] could happen again.”
Democrats blamed just that — their turnout operation — for the stunning loss in a Florida special election this month. There, unknown Republican David Jolly upset Democrat Alex Sink, who almost won the gubernatorial election in 2010. The Republican hammered his opponent on two key issues that had nothing to do with Florida’s 13th Congressional District: Obamacare — and President Obama.
While Democrats may hope to keep Mr. Obama away from their campaign stops, most can’t hide from their own records of support for the president and his policies. They’ve supported his every move on Capitol Hill and will have to own Obamacare, just as they did in 2010.
But this time, it’s all bad. Obamacare is becoming the spectacular mess many critics predicted, and will only get worse. The program has signed up about 5 million of the supposed 46 million without health insurance, and three-quarters of those already had coverage. Everything from the disastrous rollout of the $500 million website to Mr. Obama’s repeated alterations to the law will be in play this November.
What’s more, Republicans, who have voted six times in the House to completely repeal Obamacare, have changed their strategy. Reuters news agency reported last week that a Democratic pollster found that “keeping parts” of the Affordable Care Act that work and “fixing those that don’t” drew strong support. The House GOP is doing just that, for the first time backing a single set of principles to overhaul the law.
Of course, the mainstream media is getting its undies in a wad, flooding the newswaves with reports of Republican skullduggery. In the very same New York Times article that called Mr. Obama “poisonous” are reports that “Outside Republican groups have spent about $40 million in this election cycle, compared with just $17 million by Democrats.”
But there’s one last move the Republican Party is making. Finally grasping the theme that was played out again and again at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the party is moving on from bashing Mr. Obama to selling itself. Well, it’s actually doing both:
“Making clear the failures of Obamacare is a powerful message — but we also are communicating a positive message of why millions of Americans like yourself vote Republican,” RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski said in an email to supporters this week.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.