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The Life of Democrats in the Age of Obama

My home state of Virginia was supposed to be, for Democrats, a model political state, one that foreshadowed many good things to come. Barack Obama was the first Democrat to win the state since 1964, after all, and Virginia, we were told, was in the process of moving from Red (reliably Republican) to Purple (up-for-grabs) on its way to Blue (reliably Democratic). Virginia symbolized the wide appeal of Obama, who would expand the electoral map for Democrats at every level. All of which makes this Associated Press story so disconcerting for Obama and his party.

According to the AP, “Don’t look for Democrats in fiercely contested Virginia legislative elections to join President Barack Obama as he brings his campaign-style American Jobs Act bus tour to three cities there. For that matter, don’t expect Tim Kaine, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Virginia’s governor two years ago, to join his old ally either.”

The disappearing act of Kaine is significant. Kaine is not just any Democratic figure. He was, as the story points out, among the first nationally to endorse Obama’s campaign in early 2007, was instrumental in helping Obama carry Virginia, and later agreed to Obama’s request to head the Democratic National Committee.

But it turns out that Kaine, who resigned his DNC post to seek the Senate seat next year, won’t accompany Obama because of “a full schedule of events in Northern  Virginia,” a Kaine campaign spokeswoman said. Now isn’t that a coincidence? Senator Claire McCaskill ran into similar “scheduling problems” when the president recently visited her home state of Missouri. I guess scheduling problems often arise when a president’s disapproval rate tops 50 percent, which is the case in Virginia.

It turns out Kaine is not the only candidate who finds the president to be darn near radioactive. Virginia’s House Minority Leader Ward Armstrong has distanced himself from Obama. And last month, Democratic State Senator Phil Puckett renounced Obama after his Republican challenger began discrediting him as “Obama’s man in southwest Virginia” and tying him to Obama’s energy policies. Puckett said in a television interview he would not support Obama in 2012.

“Republicans say Democrats, particularly Senate incumbents trying to preserve a narrow majority in the Nov. 8 elections, are so afraid to embrace the unpopular president that Obama changed his Virginia itinerary to avoid stops near targeted Democrats,” according to the AP story.

It’s quite telling that a year and three weeks away from the election, Obama is so unpopular that one of his earliest supporters – and the former chairman of the DNC –doesn’t even want to be within the same area code as the president. And Obama’s class warfare rhetoric will only make him more unpopular in the Old Dominion. It’ll be interesting to see how, during his campaign for the Senate, Kaine handles his previous (strong) support for Obama. My guess is, with great care, he’ll distance himself as much as is humanly possible. Because in many swing states, in 2012 only Democrats with a political death wish will tie themselves to the head of their party.

Such is the life of Democrats in the Age of Obama.

 



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