House Freshmen Democrats Fleeing Obama Heading Into Midterms

May 24, 2010 16:01

Eying polls that show a mounting anger against incumbents — Democratic incumbents in particular — House freshmen who rose to power on President Barack Obama’s coattails in 2008 now are avoiding his help heading into the midterms. Many have put distance between themselves and the president’s unpopular policies, according to a report in Congressional Quarterly.


Many have put distance between themselves and the president’s unpopular policies, like the cap-and-trade climate change bill and his costly healthcare plan, according to Congressional Quarterly. But even those members who backed all of the president’s signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obama’s star power.

“You have to be an independent, no matter what,” Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper told Congressional Quarterly.

The Pennsylvania Democrat pointed to her vote against the climate change bill, which she said is an economic loser for southwest Pennsylvania, and her fight for abortion funding restrictions in the healthcare bill as evidence of her independence.

Dahlkemper told CQ that that, although she would be “very happy to welcome” Obama to her district, she didn’t know how much of a help or a hindrance he would be.

“I just think we don’t quite know yet where his popularity is,” she said. “The best thing I can do is get out and shake hands and look people in the eye. They want to see me and they want to know what I’m doing . . . I’m much less concerned about who’s going to come in and campaign for me.”

These sentiments come after recent evidence in several elections that Obama’s presence actually hindered the ability of candidates to win.
Obama could take little credit for Mark Critz’s victory in the Pennsylvania race for the House seat the late John Murtha had held.

Critz, a former Murtha aide, had made his policy differences with the president clear, saying he supports gun rights and would have voted against Obama’s healthcare reform bill.

In any case, Obama’s support would have been of questionable value, considering that his approval rating in the district is just 38 percent, while his unfavorable ratings stands at 55 percent, according to a recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll.

Voters also rejected one of Obama’s handpicked candidates, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, and forced another into a runoff, Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln — the latest sign that his political capital is slipping beneath a wave of anti-establishment anger.

Specter became the fourth Democrat in seven months to lose a high-profile race despite the president’s active involvement, raising doubts about Obama’s ability to help fellow Democrats in this November’s elections.


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