President Obama has maintained a conspicuous distance from the New York special election as other national Democrats have rushed to help the party’s nominee.
Democratic nominee Kathy Hochul has gotten help from top House Democrats including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), who have raised money and sent staff to help get out the vote in the final days before Tuesday’s election.
On Friday New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who hadn't addressed the race since calling the special election in March, endorsed Hochul in a web video.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has even gotten involved. DSCC executive director Guy Cecil on Thursday emailed supporters living in and around the western New York district to ask them to volunteer in the final push of the campaign.
Despite the all-hands-on-deck approach by the party, Obama and Vice President Biden have steered clear of publicly backing Hochul, who is vying against Republican Jane Corwin and Independent Jack Davis for seat held by former Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.).
The Hochul campaign said it hasn’t reached out to the administration for help and is focusing on building support in the district. A White House spokesman declined to comment.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the district in 2008, beating Obama by six percentage points.
In the past, the administration hasn’t been shy about dabbling in New York politics. Obama asked former Gov. David Paterson (D) in September 2009 not to seek reelection – a call he eventually heeded -- and his administration pressured potential primary challengers to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) not to run.
Moreover, the administration has actively campaigned in other special election races. After then-Rep. Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate by Paterson in 2009, Obama endorsed Democrat Scott Murphy in the March special election race for Gillibrand’s House seat. And Biden recorded a 60-second radio spot for Murphy, who won the special election but lost in the 2010 general election.
Biden has often been tasked with campaigning in more conservative districts where the president wouldn't be as welcome. He campaigned in New York for Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) during that special election, rallying supporters on Nov. 2, 2009, the afternoon before Election Day.
The vice president also traveled to Pittsburgh, Pa., in May 2010 to raise money for Rep. Mark Critz (D-Pa.) in the special election for the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) seat.
Obama has had some indirect involvement in the New York race. His campaign arm in New York, Organizing for America, has been actively campaigning in the district in support of Hochul, a source said.
Meanwhile, it’s still possible for Biden to get directly involved in the race before voters go to the polls Tuesday but the president addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference Sunday and leaves for Ireland on Monday for a six-day trip to Europe.
If the White House decides to remain on the sidelines, observers will wonder if that was because they couldn't be helpful, or didn't want to be.