White House shrugs off Obama remarks

The White House is shrugging off President Obama’s latest remarks tying Democratic candidates to his record, saying Obama was only trying to help motivate black voters to come to the polls.

Obama, in a Monday interview on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show, said Democrats under fire on the campaign trail “vote with me” and “have supported my agenda in Congress.”


The comments were surprising given the efforts Democratic candidates, particularly in red states like Arkansas, Alaska and Louisiana, have made to distance themselves from the unpopular president.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama was just trying to make the point to Sharpton that his listeners should transfer their support for Obama to other Democratic candidates.

“The point the president made is, he’s looking for partners in Congress who are supportive of minimum wage, supportive of laws than ensure women get equal pay for equal work … these are the kind of policies Democrats in Congress have stepped up to the plate to support,” Earnest said.

“They don’t support them because the president supports them, they support them because they’re the right thing to do, and the president is pleased to have partners in Congress who are willing to work with him to make progress on those issues,” he said.

Obama’s comments on Sharpton’s show represent the second time in recent weeks that he’s tied Democratic candidates to his policies, something his former political adviser David Axelrod labeled a mistake.

Obama told Sharpton it was difficult for some red-state Democrats to appear with him “because the Republicans will use that to try to fan Republican turnout.”

“The bottom line is though, these are all folks who vote with me, they have supported my agenda in Congress, they are on the right side of minimum wage, they are on the right side of fair pay, they are on the right side of rebuilding our infrastructure, they’re on the right side of early childhood education,” Obama continued.

Republicans immediately pounced on the remark, saying it reinforced their contention that Democratic candidates in states like Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky and Alaska would simply enable the president’s agenda. 

The GOP needs to gain six seats in the midterm elections in two weeks to take over the Senate.

The White House has undertaken a concerted effort to drive minority voters to the polls, with the president sitting for interviews with Sharpton along with radio hosts Steve Harvey, Rickey Smiley, Russ Parr and Yolanda Adams.

The president and first lady have also taped at least a dozen robocalls and radio ads that can air for Democratic candidates in urban areas without providing Republican candidates a visual of the president embracing their opponent, which could be used for attack ads.

Democratic strategists say that turning out minority voters in cities like New Orleans, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., will be crucial to any hopes for the party of retaining the Senate. In a memo obtained by The New York Times over the weekend, a former pollster for the president predicted “crushing Democratic losses across the country,” if Democrats did not do more to turn out the black vote.

“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” wrote pollster Cornell Belcher in the memo. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”

Earnest echoed that point on MSNBC.

“Democrats in a lot of these states are going to be counting on Hispanics, African-Americans, young people, young women in particular to turn out in the midterm elections — the president has gotten them to turn out in 2008 and 2012,” Earnest said.