The White House is criticizing Senate Democrats for their decision to distance themselves from Obama and not use the president more during the election.
Obama and his aides had felt for months that he wasn’t being used enough in the closely contested Senate races that would determine control of the chamber and the shape of his last two years in office.
Schumer didn’t jump at the president’s offer. According to a source familiar with the matter, the New York senator told Obama to ask the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The DSCC had already suggested Obama do a barrage of robocalls and radio interviews to help turn out black voters. But no visits to battleground states. Obama would have to watch from the White House.
At the White House, officials have their own gripes. Senate Democrats blundered time and again by being too frightened to do anything, mishandling their relationship with Obama, aides say, while candidates foolishly ran from a president they were going to be tied to anyway.
“These candidates tried to walk a tightrope between getting some distance from the president and trying to turn out his base,” said one senior aide the day before the election.
Obama’s “general view is: we as a party are better when we’re making an argument,” the aide continued. “For an array of reasons — some of which he’d agree with, some of which he wouldn’t — he was prevented from making that argument.”
The reaction from Democrats on the day after the defeat has largely been to blame the Senate Democrats who made the decision to run away from President Obama. Many Democrats believe that Obama could have played a vital role in exciting Democrats in states like Iowa and Colorado.
Senate Democrats played into Republican hands by putting Obama on the bench. The presidency is a huge resource. Visits from Obama bring global media attention, Democratic support, and needed fundraising dollars to campaigns.
The White House was correct. Senate Democrats made the decision to distance themselves from Obama, but they had no message to replace the president with. Senate Democrats around the country lacked the sort of unifying campaign theme that a president can bring.
Obama is one of the two best campaigners in the country, and Senate Democrats pretended like he didn’t exist in an attempt to save their own hides. It was a strategy that never worked, and it probably doomed Democratic hopes of keeping the Senate.
When Senate Democratic candidates criticized Obama, they depressed and alienated Democratic votes that they needed to have show up on election day. Through their short sighted thinking Democrats missed a golden opportunity. Obama could have come to the states and told voters that their Democratic candidate disagreed with him on some things. Candidates themselves could have pointed out areas where they didn’t agree with the president. It would have been an honest and authentic display. Voters aren’t dumb. They aren’t fooled by candidates that run as Democratic lite or Republican lite.
The Democratic Senate performance could not have been much worse with Obama campaigning for them, and it is good to see the White House is not allowing the president to take all the blame for this defeat.
If Senate Democrats had used Obama, they might not have won, but their supporters could feel a whole lot better about losing with the knowledge that Democrats held nothing back.