By Justin Sink
President Obama complained Thursday that Democrats “get clobbered” in midterm elections, blaming a “toxic” atmosphere in Washington for suppressing Democratic constituencies.
“The challenge is that our politics in Washington have become so toxic that people just lose faith,” Obama told a group of top Democratic donors gathered at the home of former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning. “They say, ‘Y’know what, it doesn’t matter, I’m not that interested, I’m not gonna vote.’ And that’s especially true during the midterms.”
“Suddenly a more representative cross section of America gets out there, and we do pretty well in presidential elections,” Obama said.
“But in midterms, we get clobbered, either because we don’t think it’s important or because we get so discouraged about what’s happening in Washington that we think it’s not worth our while. And the reason today is so important, and the reason that I’m so appreciative for all of you being here is because we’re going to have to get over that. This is a top priority.”
The president has repeatedly signaled his concern about Democratic turnout during a series of high-dollar fundraisers he’s attended in recent months.
Democrats are defending 21 of the 36 Senate seats up this fall, and election watchers widely expect the party to lose seats as they protect a fragile six-seat majority.
Democrats in red states like South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana have retired and Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.) are facing tough races. Their challenge is intensified by a midterm electorate that tends to be older and whiter, which historically benefits Republicans. Midterm election voters also routinely shy away from a sitting president’s party.
Many of those Democrats have also refused to campaign with Obama, sensing the president’s diminished approval ratings could create a liability.
The White House is looking to counteract that by having Obama raise money for Democratic candidates in cities where he remains extremely popular.
At the Mourning fundraiser, which also featured House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Florida Democratic Reps. Joe Garcia, Lois Frankel and Corrine Brown, approximately 75 attendees paid from $16,200 per person to $32,400 per couple.
Proceeds benefitted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the president has pledged at least another five fundraisers for the committee in the coming months.
Earlier in the afternoon, Obama attended a roundtable, where 25 supporters contributed up to $32,400 benefitting the DNC.
Obama is also looking to rally the base by targeting policy priorities important to Democratic constituencies. He told attendees at Thursday’s event about an event in Orlando earlier in the day focused around improving conditions for women in the workplace.
“Even though the economy is growing again — incomes, wages, they’re flat. ... People are having a hard time getting traction and feeling confident that their children are doing better than they are,” he said.
Obama also criticized Republicans, saying his political opponents did not “have an obligation” to use government to help those in need.
“Everybody’s just got to look out for themselves,” Obama said, describing the Republican position.
“We don’t have to worry the kid on the other side of town; we don’t have to worry about that woman who’s cleaning our house,” he added.