President Obama has a message for Democrats nationwide: Be afraid — be very afraid.
Obama flew to New York City for a pair of fundraisers Tuesday afternoon, the latest stop on his 2014 mission to remind Democrats of the disaster that was 2010 and the risk they run this year if they do not show up in full force.
Democrats face a daunting electoral landscape, with almost no chance of winning the House and a high risk of losing the Senate. Although polls show Democrats have an advantage on most issues, they also show it is not turning into an advantage in voting — a problem illustrated on Tuesday when Democrats lost a special House election in Florida.
If his recent remarks are any guide, Obama is worried Democrats might not realize the threat they face in November.
“In the midterms, Democrats too often don’t vote. Too often, when there’s not a presidential election, we don’t think it’s sexy, we don’t think it’s interesting,” Obama said last week at a Democratic National Committee event. “People tune out. And because the electorate has changed, we get walloped. It’s happened before, and it could happen again.”
And, as he put it Tuesday night at a Senate fundraiser in New York, “it would be a lot easier if I had a Congress that was serious about America’s future.”
Obama has been sounding similar warnings since he started appearing at Democratic fundraisers last summer. After Obama’s resounding win in 2008, Democrats lost control of the House in 2010, a major defeat that caught the White House by surprise and has cast a shadow over Obama’s presidency well into his second term.
White House officials say Obama is simply pointing out that Democrats often turn out in smaller numbers in midterm elections compared with presidential voting years. Younger voters — who tend to support Democrats — come out to vote less, while older voters, who support Republicans, still vote in significant numbers.
“I think the observation about complacency is more about statistical reality when it comes to who votes in midterm elections,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday. “And it’s certainly been the case that Democrats tend not to turn out in the same numbers in midterms as Republicans do. And so the president and everyone else involved in the effort to support Democratic candidates and incumbents is making the case that it’s really important to turn out and exercise your right to vote, whoever you are.”
A White House official said Obama will do whatever he can to maximize turnout — working to get the Democratic base out in blue states while avoiding “some of these redder states” where he is less popular.
Obama has signed up for 18 Democratic National Committee events through June and an additional 12 events for the Senate, House and gubernatorial committees. Obama will also appear at events sponsored by Democratic super PACS.
But White House officials say his most important role will be drawing clear contrasts between the parties on the minimum wage, college affordability, pay parity and other bread-and-butter Democratic issues.
“The president can set the terms of the electoral debate and lay out a unifying economic message for Democrats in red, blue and purple states,” the official said.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll last week found that while Americans trust them more than Republicans on key issues, Democrats have not gained a political advantage in the midterm elections. Half of voters in states with Senate races are supporting Republicans in the November elections, vs. 42 percent for Democrats, the poll showed.
Twenty-one Senate seats up in November are held by Democrats, while only 15 are held by Republicans.
According to the Cook Political Report, the seat held by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) is the only true tossup among GOP-held Senate seats this fall. By contrast, five seats held by Democrats — in Arkansas, Michigan, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia — are tossups.
Democrats are better positioned in the GOP-controlled House but have little chance of doing more than gaining a few seats.
“If you’re a Democrat who cares about our future, the stakes are high — whether it’s raising the minimum wage or making sure that women earn equal pay for equal work — and we are working hard to make sure that Democrats don’t sit on the sidelines, whether it’s by supporting our efforts or turning out to vote in November,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.