Republicans couldn’t beat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but they’re banking on the third time being the charm.
“This is not brain surgery,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, who argued “it’s obvious Obama has become an anchor” for Democrats.
From Alaska, where Republican Dan Sullivan hopes to beat Democrat Mark Begich by pledging to “stand up to Barack Obama and federal overreach”, to Iowa, Republicans want voters thinking chiefly about Barack Obama as they go to the polls.
“Let me just say that probably the happiest guy in the country today is Jimmy Carter,” Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) quipped to a crowd in Ames on the final night of Ernst’s 99-county tour. “Because Barack Obama is making him look competent.”
For their part, Democrats haven’t always made it difficult for them. Between Obama insisting he, or at least his policies, are on the ballot and most Democrats now running away from him still have his back, it’s fair to say he’s injected himself into the election in ways many Democrats didn’t want. At the same time, some of them getting tripped up by a simple question – did they vote for him in 2012 – suggests there’ll be plenty of blame to go around if they lose the Senate, as many now predict.
Targeting the president so aggressively has also scared Democrats away from campaigning with Obama, which, in turn, has made rallying base voters more difficult — a crucial task in the midterm election, and especially in Southern states with large black populations.
President Obama’s toxicity became a self-fulfilling prophecy as more and more vulnerable Democrats sought their distance — often in embarrassing ways, like Kentucky candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes’s refusal to say whether she voted for him.
The universal focus on Obama has also left most Democratic candidates on the defensive, which heightens the degree of difficulty for proactive attacks on Republican opponents.