President Barack Obama shakes hands with audience members as he arrives to speak about the economy, jobs and manufacturing, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) President Barack Obama shakes hands with audience members as he arrives to speak about the economy Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

This morning, I read two articles that perfectly capture an important part of today’s political dynamic: The Democrats’ dilemma.

Politico’s Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan wrote about the GOP’s so-called “single-minded obsession” with President Obama, arguing that Republicans in Congress are too focused on opposing Obama, and this could potentially hurt Republican chances in the 2014 elections. The article almost seems like an attempt at reverse psychology from Obama-friendly media hoping to dissuade Republicans from making the president and his failed policies the central issue of the 2014 midterm elections. However, taking some of what the authors say to heart, I agree that Republicans need an affirmative agenda and shouldn’t just be a party dedicated to criticizing Obama. The GOP does seem to have a creativity void. Somebody call Newt Gingrich.

The second article, from the Los Angeles Times, highlights Senator Kay Hagan’s awkwardly conspicuous absence from the state as the president visited North Carolina today to deliver (yet another) economic speech. Could it be another pivot to the economy? Anyway, Sen. Hagan’s absence is a reminder of how challenging the president can be for vulnerable Democrats. Going into the 2014 election cycle, Democrats face a dilemma: How do candidates avoid the bad yet utilize the good of the incumbent president?

True, the president is still an effective fundraiser, and Democrats across the country hope to benefit from this fundraising power. The president can also still energize the core Democratic base. But according to the latest Economist/YouGov poll, 64 percent of independents disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as president, and Republicans almost universally oppose him. The fact is, even a popular president has limits as to what he can do in a mid-term election. In the 1986 midterm elections, when I was working for President Reagan, Republicans lost a net of eight Senate seats. I believe the best the Democrats can hope for is that the president will quietly raise money and use his machinery to turn out the base but remain hidden from the moderates and independents they are hoping to sway.

Republicans need to stick to the script, and much of that script centers on Obama, Obamacare and the Obama economy. Period. We should not be deterred from the reality that Obama and his policies will continue to drive votes in the midterm elections. Obviously, the Democrats and their allies in the media would like to change the subject to almost anything else, but Republicans should not take the bait.

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