- - Wednesday, October 22, 2014


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 josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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