How are Democratic Senate candidates in red states handling President Obama’s growing unpopularity? Either by pretending they aren’t even in the same party or by attacking him, according to a survey of Senate campaigns by Patricia Murphy of the Daily Beast.
The most dramatic distancing comes courtesy of West Virginia Democrat Natalie Tennant, who is campaigning for a vacant Senate seat in a coal-producing state targeted by Obama environmental regulations. She is running an ad in which she hits a switch and plunges the White House into darkness in protest over his policies.
Other Democrats are also scrambling to pretend they want nothing to do with the president. After all, of the ten states with the lowest approval ratings for the president, Democrats have to defend seats in five: South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, Alaska, and Arkansas.
But that doesn’t mean Democratic candidates aren’t cozying up privately to Obama by having him or his surrogates in for lucrative fundraisers. Murphy reports:
So far\this cycle, Obama has headlined 11 events for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, while Vice President Joe Biden has hosted five and first lady Michelle Obama has been the top draw for two. The president also has added his weight to the Senate Majority Fund PAC, which has run ads against (GOP candidates Tom) Cotton in Arkansas, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, and other red states where Democrats are fending off Republican challengers.
Justin Barasky, press secretary for the DSCC, says efforts like Tennant’s in West Virginia and Landrieu’s in Louisiana aren’t necessarily a reflection on the president.
“It’s not about distancing themselves from the White House,” Barasky says. “These are independent senators showing that they will always put their states first, and that’s been true whether President Bush was in the White House or President Obama was in the White House.
It’s certainly true that candidates in the past have sought to separate themselves from their party’s national leader. But the efforts of red-state Democrats to hide from voters while seeking cash from Obama events sets a new standard in political two-step dancing.