- - Wednesday, September 17, 2014


This year, far more than the last midterm elections, Democratic candidates across the country are fleeing the incumbent president.

Midterms almost always go against the party in the White House, as they did (horribly) in 2010. But that year, Democrats running for Congress mostly stuck with President Obama on the newly passed Affordable Care Act.

Not so this time. They are running for the hills. And while in campaigns past candidates have quietly distanced themselves from incumbent presidents (no joint appearances and no mentions in campaign ads), in 2014, some Democrats are brazenly making their marital discord known.

The most hilarious example is an ad by Alison Lundergan Grimes, seeking to unseat the Senate majority leader. Her 30-second spot opens on a misty meadow, with the far-left liberal holding, of course, a shotgun. And then she just comes out and says it: “Mitch McConnell wants you to think I’m Barack Obama.” Blammo! She pops a clay pigeon from the air with a blast of her shotgun.

“Mitch is the same guy who thought Duke basketball players were [University of Kentucky].” Blammo! “Or who’s attacking me on coal [blammo!] while doing next to nothing while we’ve lost thousands of coal jobs.” Blammo! “He even said it’s not his job [‘pull,’ she says as a clay pigeon fires into the air] to Kentucky.” Blammo! Close-up of shotgun shell ejecting.

Then, looking straight into the camera, she says it again, in case you missed it: “I’m not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.” At the end, cutting to a picture of Mr. McConnell holding a shotgun up, the gun nut scolds him: “And Mitch, that’s not how you hold a gun.” One last blammo!

Meanwhile, Democrat Mark Begich is having his own little airing of grievances in Alaska. The Senate incumbent and former mayor of Anchorage is locked in a tough battle with Dan Sullivan, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves who served as a director on the National Security Council staff under National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

This ad, too, is macho sports heavy. It opens with a close-up of a snowmobile bouncing along and a voice-over that is just as icy as the terrain: “He took on Obama to get drilling in the Arctic, to keep our F-16s at Eielson [Air Force Base], and to get local health care for veterans. And he voted against Obama’s trillion-dollar tax increase. Mark Begich wins the fights for Alaska.”

In another hilarious interlude, Sen. Mark Udall, the incumbent from Colorado who has voted 99 percent of the time with the White House, recently claimed he sends shivers up the president’s spine, so steely is his opposition to All Things Obama. “Let me tell you, the White House, when they look down the front lawn, the last person they want to see coming is me.”

Their terror is well-founded. A New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/16/us/politics/gop-gains-strength-and-obama-gets-low-marks-poll-finds.html?smid=tw-upshotnyt&assetType=nyt_now&_r=0 shows the president’s approval ratings are roughly those of President George W. Bush in 2006, when Democrats took over Congress in the midterms. What’s more, Mr. Obama is mired in several foreign-policy debacles, including Iraq and Syria. Democrats are openly distancing themselves from the president’s plan to engage militarily in the region, fearing backlash from their liberal base.

Take this testy comment from Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. “I know he talks about a 40-country coalition — is it a papier-mch coalition or is it for real?” Ouch. Rep. James P. McGovern of Massachusetts said, “I don’t understand the endgame.” And Arkansas Sen. Mark L. Pryor, who is only pulling 42.5 percent of the vote, according to realclearpolitics.com, said, “My concern would be that the people we arm today may be our enemies tomorrow.”

The problem is, Mr. Obama’s policies — foreign and domestic — are poison to campaigning Democrats. And worse, this time, they may be running, but they can’t hide.

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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