Whither President Obama's Coattails?

Back in November I asked if Barack Obama would be a Democratic version of Dwight D. Eisenhower: A popular President whose popularity didn't rub off on his party and who, as a result, was not able to get as much done as he might otherwise have.

The results after President Obama's first year in office are still inconclusive -- but they're not promising. On election day 2009, Democrats lost races in New York City, New Jersey and Virginia despite Barack Obama's approval ratings of 77 percent, 57 percent, and 48 percent, respectively. Post-election polling out of the Massachusetts race, where the Democratic nominee Martha Coakley lost despite Barack Obama's impressive 61 percent approval rating, further suggest his coattails may not be as long as once thought.

Obama also remains highly popular in Massachusetts. More than six in 10 of those who voted approve of his job performance, with 92 percent of Coakley voters expressing satisfaction, along with 33 percent of Brown's. More than half of Brown's backers say Obama was not a factor in their vote.

These numbers aren't all bad news, of course. Looked at from another angle, the message should be clear to Scott Brown that he can ill afford to alienate supporters of the President in Massachusetts, who make up fully one out of every three of his voters on Tuesday. As such, there will be great pressure on him to be open (or at least appear to be open) to legislative compromise (even as, at the same time, his extreme conservative base pressures him in the other direction).

That said, looking at the more macro than the micro implications of these numbers, it is becoming increasingly evident that President Obama's cachet with voters, to the extent that it remains at present, is not rubbing off on his fellow Democrats. The reportedly expanded role for David Plouffe, the architect of Barack Obama's campaign for the White House, could potentially change this dynamic going forward -- but it is clear that if President Obama wishes for the Congress to remain in the hands of his Democratic Party, the current trajectory isn't likely to keep it that way indefinitely.

The Democratic Party's Secret Weapon

Cross-Posted at the Swing State Project and Senate Guru--
http://www.swingstateproject.com/showDia ry.do?diaryId=1707
http://www.senateguru.com/showDiary.do?d iaryId=89

All of us here are optimistic about our prospects in a Democratic year, yet we have repeatedly voiced concern about the precarious nature of some of this year's down-ballot races.  In a Democratic year, why are Oregon and Maine such long-shots?  Why is the picture so unclear in Colorado?  And, more importantly, what can be done to fight the prospect of more Republican victories down-ballot?  Well, I've got an idea, and I know that a handful of others in the blogosphere agree.  I hope it echoes across the Internet and reaches the ears of the top campaign strategists for Barack Obama-- pick Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer as the VP candidate, and the prospects of Democratic victories brighten all across the country.  Whenever I mention Schweitzer's name, people inevitably respond, "But Montana only has three electoral votes!" By focusing on electoral math alone, they miss the point; if all we think about is electoral math, we are doomed to a future of precarious, one-vote majorities-- nowhere near strong enough to pass progressive legislation and undo the damage of the Bush administration, which will take years.

With that in mind, I say the national ticket needs not one, but two galvanizers who can make campaign stops that whip up the crowds and help the down-ballot candidates.  On that count, Brian Schweitzer is our party's secret weapon. He is a fantastic orator-- second only to Obama himself in the party-- and has a proven ability to resonate with Republican and independent voters. He can definitely help us pick up some Rocky Mountain states-- with him on the ticket, Colorado is ours, and the coattails of an Obama/Schweitzer ticket would undoubtedly pull Mark Udall over the finish line-- and we could pick off Nevada and New Mexico as well.  Oregon would become more solidly blue (improving the chances of Merkley or Novick,) as would Washington State (solidifying Gov. Gregoire's re-election chances).  Furthermore, while I doubt we would win Arizona, we would at least force John McCain to fight us on his home turf, which would cost him time and resources, and give the national GOP a headache (ahh, schadenfreude!)

"But wait!" you say, "What about those rust-belt states that we need to win?  Hell, what about New Hampshire and Maine?" To which I say, the aforementioned independent and Republican voters to whom Schweitzer has appealed have been rural and/or working-class citizens who don't want their jobs to be outsourced, are worried about the economy in the wake of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and disapprove of the way the war is going, but who want to keep their hunting rifles.  You think there aren't voters like that in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia?  Of course there are!  Those are the very voters who swing those states, and Schweitzer is exactly the candidate to persuade them to vote Democratic!

As for New Hampshire and Maine, Schweitzer's fiercely independent, non-dogmatic persona will resonate quite well with the numerous independent voters who might otherwise consider McCain.  The libertarian streak that runs through the Mountain West is not all that different from good old-fashioned Yankee independence.  Furthermore, Schweitzer took a bold early stand against the Real ID act, a particularly potent issue in Maine.  If Schweitzer were to make some campaign stops with Congressman (and senate candidate) Tom Allen and use that issue as the centerpiece . . . who knows?  We might just be able to unseat the inexplicably popular Susan Collins.

For those who don't know much about Schweitzer and might worry that he's some sort of DINO, relax-- he is pro-choice, pro-civil unions, and VERY pro-environment.  In fact, he has successfully re-framed the environment issue as "conservationism," not "environmentalism," and it has worked-- people who hunt, fish, and participate in other outdoor activities want to preserve the natural environment.  Schweitzer has framed the issue as something that concerns these very people, thus proving that conserving our environment is not some fringe pursuit, but a very real one for average citizens.  Under Schweitzer's stewardship, Montana has been at the forefront of wind energy.

So, if you agree with me on this, I exhort you to spread the word, write blog posts, and even e-mail the Obama campaign.  I figure that, with a concerted effort, we can at least familiarize more people with his name.  Hey, it can't hurt, right?


There's more...

Clinton Coattails House seats-Fla, Mich, Oh, NY &NJ

Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post's The Fix examined the vulnerability of Republican House seats in light of the Foster win of the Hastert seat.  

I would have pointed this out Monday, but being a New Yorker, the news was preoccupying.

"[Eighty] percent of the Republican open and Republican incumbent seats the DCCC is targeting this cycle have better democratic performances than Illinois 14," wrote committee communications director Jen Crider in the memo. "Forty out of the 50 seats the DCCC is targeting have Democratic performances of 45 percent or higher."


"Illinois' 14th district has a PVI score of R+5. A quick look at Cook's PVI ratings reveals that 53 Republican-held seats have a score more Democratic than that."

Cillizza decided to use the Cook PVI's of R+1 to R+5 to check out how many Republican seats would be vulnerable now that a seat like the Hastert seat had fallen. As noted there are 53, 22-26 of those 53 are in States Hillary Clinton not Barack Obama  carried.

There's more...

Clinton Drags Down Swing-State Dems

Opponents of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign have suggested that she may be too polarizing and would in fact carry negative coattails, dragging down our Democratic candidates in swing congressional districts.

Now, a study conducted by a former Clinton pollster, Celinda lake, gives credence to those fears.  From the Washington Post article on the study:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/con tent/article/2007/09/22/AR2007092201024_ pf.html

A recent survey by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, however, showed Clinton and Obama trailing former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) in the 31 Democratic-held House districts regarded as most imperiled in 2008, and even potentially serving as a drag on those lawmakers' reelection chances.

There's more...

Do Presidential Coattails Still Matter?

What would be nice- really  really nice -- is that people should start googling and researching the issues rather than coming to a position based on candidate support. Do presidential coattails still exist? On this topic, because I was challenged with a similar "well coattails don't matter anymore and haven't mattered in 20 years" (yes, he added 20 years) comment by a candidate supporter, I decided to do a  little research.  What I provide below should put to rest the question of whether there are presidential coattails. The real question which I don't answer here or try to answer is which candidate will have a negative, positive or neutral impact because honestly- sometimes you have to settle the basic question first so the debate isn't always based on denial of the basic facts.

I am writing this diary because of the tendency of some here to deny that there is even a such thing as a presidential coattail. An argument which seems silly on its face given that the Presidential nominee and the eventual President is the face of the party. Just as Bush is the face of the GOP, so will whoever is our nominee become the face of the Democratic Party. No amount of spin will change this. I suppose it is useful to pretend that such a relationship doesn't exist. But its not very helpful or fair to the undecideds. This diary is for them.

It's by no means thorough. It was actually written in response to a question in another diary. I am just posting it here so that if people are interested, they can do further research on the issue rather than listen to the spinmeisters.

There's more...


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