A day after President Obama tied Democratic candidates to his policies, the White House said those people would ultimately be responsible for their own Election Day triumphs or disappointments.
"The success of many of these Democratic candidates will depend on their own success in motivating voters that strongly supported the president in 2012," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.
"Ultimately, those Democratic candidates will have to develop their own strategies in their states for figuring out how exactly to do that," he continued. "And there are people running in red states that have a strong track record. … So it should be their decision. It's ultimately their campaign; it's their name that's on the ballot."
Attention on the president's role in the midterms was renewed on Monday when he noted on Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show that red-state Democrats reticent to campaign with him “vote with me” and “have supported my agenda in Congress.”
Republicans have seized on the remarks to say they validate their contention that Democratic candidates would serve as a rubber stamp for Obama, whose approval ratings are poor.
Obama will get "at least his fair share of the blame" if Democrats fail to hold control of the Senate, Earnest said.
"I think we would all agree that whoever is sitting in the Oval Office at the time that these elections take place gets some credit for the success and at least as much of their share of the blame if they don’t go the way that that person hopes," Earnest said.
Earnest wouldn't concede that Obama’s remarks on Sharpton’s show were a gift to Republicans. “You'd have to sort of do an analysis state by state to decide, you know, what sort of impact comments like these have," he said.
But Earnest added it could be useful for the president to link himself to the Democratic candidates running in the midterms.
"Democrats who are running in red states, blue states and in so-called purple states are going to need the strong support of those voters who supported the president in his re-election campaign, that they're going to need the support of young voters and Hispanic voters and Asian voters," Earnest said. "African-American voters, of course. And so helping voters in all these states understand the stakes in the midterm elections is one way the president can help Democratic candidates on the ballot."
The press secretary also said he wouldn't "second-guess" the strategy of red-state Democrats who chose not to appear with the president, noting they and their political strategists knew what was needed to win in their states.
Earnest also said there was a "variety of ways" Obama could be beneficial to those candidates, outside of appearing alongside them at rallies.
"That’s why you’ve seen the president, starting at the beginning of last year, work to raise money in support of political committees that benefit Democratic candidates," Earnest said. "You’ve also seen, again, the president’s campaign team, such as it exists now, working to derive the benefits of technology and a volunteer base and transfer them to Democratic candidates."