In a closed-door meeting earlier this week, President Obama told vulnerable senators that he "would not be offended" if he is not invited to join them on the campaign trail. Some have already stated publicly that they plan to take him up on that offer – but Rep. Gary Peters, the likely Democratic Senate nominee in Michigan, plans to appear alongside the president on Friday.
"Gary supports the bipartisan farm bill... so he'll be with the president and [Senate Agriculture Committee] Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow in Lansing when it's signed into law," Peters spokeswoman Haley Morris told The Hill on Thursday.
The Democratic legislative leadership -- in the House and Senate -- has been consistent in insisting that Obama will be an asset for Democratic candidates when voters begin hitting the polls later this year. (Of course, the alternative -- saying Obama is an anchor on their candidates -- is hard to imagine.)
Asked on Thursday afternoon if Obama will be a drag on the ticket, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted that wasn't the case. "Absolutely not," Pelosi said, adding that the president's persence will be used deliberately on the 2014 campaign trail. "There are only so many days in the week and only a few of those that the president might be available. So we want to use them... we want to maximize what happens."
Those comments echo the sentiment from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who said during a sit-down last week with CNN's Dana Bash that he expects many vulnerable Senate Democrats to invite Obama to appear on the trail with them. "Barack Obama is personally a very popular guy. And people love this man. They love his family," he said.
Several of the Democrats facing reelection in 2014 hail from dark red districts in states such as Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana -- the regions of the country where Obama is the most unpopular. Conventional wisdom would dictate that those candidates would attempt to keep their heads down -- distancing themselves from the Affordable Care Act and avoiding joint appearances with Obama during his official visits to their states. Several of the most vulnerable DemocraticsSenators are already publicly distanced themselves from Obama following last month's State of the Union.
“Overall, I’m disappointed with the President’s State of the Union address because he was heavy on rhetoric, but light on specifics about how we can move our country forward,” said Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor. "I’ll work with the President when I think he’s right, but oppose him when I think he’s wrong... I’ll continue to oppose his agenda when it’s bad for Arkansas and our country.”
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu used her first campaign ad of the cycle to criticize the implementation of the federal health-care law, while North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan was a no-show when Obama appeared in her state to speak at N.C. State last month. And here's Sen. Mark Begich on Obama: “If he wants to come up [to Alaska], I’m not really interested in campaigning [with President Obama]."
But while being seen with Obama means a Republican tracker will be filming it for use in campaign ads later this year, there are also benefits to it for targeted Democrats. First, Obama remains the most powerful fundraiser in politics and a single visit can net a senator (or House member) with a financial windfall it might otherwise take them weeks or months to accumulate. Second, Obama remains popular within the Democratic base. So, if you are Hagan, for example. rallying the Democratic base is of critical importance to getting close to a majority of the vote this November.
As we've broken down in the past, if the 2014 midterms turn into a referendum on Obama the way the 2010 midterms did, the Democrats could be in major trouble. But, some Democrats will undoubtedly take the risk of bringing Obama into their states to reap the rewards and hope the downsides won't be too severe. But, it will be a risk.