Less than a month before critical legislative elections, several Democratic legislators say they have reservations about the president and will not commit to supporting him next year. At least one longtime state senator has announced he will not vote for Obama in 2012.
“He’s frustrating me, just like he’s frustrating others out there,’’ said Sen. Linda T. “Toddy” Puller, a Democrat who faces Republican Jeff Frederick in a tough reelection campaign in Fairfax and Prince William counties.
House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong (D), who is fighting for reelection after Republicans eliminated his district during redistricting, released a TV ad in response to an attempt by his Republican opponent, Del. Charles D. Poindexter, to tie him to Obama in the Southside district.
In the ad, Armstrong dismisses the notion. “That’s a stretch, Charles. I’m pro-life, pro-gun, and I always put Virginia first.”
Nationally, Obama’s job-approval ratings have sunk, as a stalled economy has bled millions of jobs and congressional partisan bickering has led to a downgrade of the federal government’s credit rating.
Even before the president’s trip was announced, Republicans in Virginia had been tightening the screws, aggressively challenging Democrats’ hold on the state Senate in part by tying them to the president. Recent polls and interviews with voters show that Republicans may have had some success.
“The last thing they want to do is be tied to the hip of an unpopular president,’’ Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) said. “If he wanted to help these Democrats, he would stay far away from Virginia. They’re trying to save their skin.”
Obama began a three-day bus tour Monday in North Carolina and will continue Tuesday and Wednesday in Virginia — two critical swing states he carried in 2008 that remain just as important in 2012.
In 2008, Obama became the first Democratic president to carry Virginia in more than four decades, leading some Democrats to declare the state blue. But in the years since, Democrats — lagging in money and candidates ahead of next month’s races — have lost ground in what some still consider a conservative Southern state. The GOP controls most of Richmond and holds a commanding majority of Virginia’s congressional delegation.
Virginia is expected to remain a swing state. Last month, the Gallup poll tracking Obama’s approval ratings showed that the 2012 presidential election will come down to 10 states, including Virginia. Even Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who barely won reelection last year, said in August that Obama would not win Virginia if the election were held now.
The White House had considered stops in Danville, Newport News, Charlottesville and Fredericksburg. But prominent Democrats in Virginia — where Obama’s approval rating hovers around 50 percent — encouraged the White House to alter the schedule so he would no longer visit districts where members of his party were involved in tight elections.