By Justin Sink - 01/28/14 02:14 PM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidSanders tests Wasserman Schultz Nearly 400 House bills stuck in Senate limbo Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate MORE (D-Nev.) said he encouraged vulnerable Senate Democrats to campaign with President Obama ahead of the 2104 midterms, even despite the president's lagging approval ratings.
A poll released last week from The Associated Press backs Reid up. It found that 58 percent of Americans now view the president as very or somewhat likable — up 9 percentage points from October. That's despite Obama's approval rating remaining underwater, with 45 percent approving and 53 percent saying the president is not handling his job well.
Reid also said he and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) will huddle with Obama next week at the White House to strategize on how best to use the president in the fall.
Democrats are defending 21 of the 36 Senate seats up for reelection in the fall, and must win 16 of those races to maintain control of the upper chamber. Democratic retirements in red states like South Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana have complicated that task, and Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) are facing tough reelection battles.
Landrieu and Hagan raised eyebrows when they declined to attend events with President Obama in their home states in recent months, suggesting Obama might be viewed as a liability by the lawmakers.
But Reid said the president "is a good person to campaign for anybody."
"The president understands government," Reid said. "But he also understands politics. And that's why he won two elections overwhelmingly, both of which for President of the United States and they said he didn't stand a chance."
Pressed on Hagan's absence earlier this month, White House press secretary Jay Carney chastised reporters for "the urgent desire to turn every story 10 months out into an election story."
"We're certainly not looking at a visit designed to highlight the need to continue the progress we've made with advanced manufacturing as an issue of electoral politics," he said.
At the time, Carney sidestepped questions about whether the president was concerned about being a "drag" on candidates up for reelection in 2014.
"All I can tell you is the president is traveling to North Carolina," Carney said.