Party like it’s 1994

The best strategy for Republicans running for office this November? Get President Obama to campaign for your Democratic opponent. It’s a plan that appears to be working rather splendidly for the GOP so far. In fact, it’s so successful, there should be little doubt that Republicans would be willing to open their wallets and fund Obama’s campaign travel through Nov. 2.

Obama campaigned for Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who lost his primary to Rep. Joe Sestak 46 percent to 54. Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley 52 percent to 47 in January’s special election, despite Obama’s support for Coakley. Republican Chris Christie trounced New Jersey’s Democratic incumbent governor, Jon Corzine, even after Obama did his best to pull Corzine to victory last fall. The story repeats itself in Virginia, where Obama didn’t have the clout with voters to help Democrat Creigh Deeds defeat Bob McDonnell for Virginia governor. Numbers don’t lie.


The White House may try to argue that Obama was not on the ballot Tuesday in Pennsylvania, nor in New Jersey and Virginia last year or Massachusetts earlier this year, where, despite the president’s efforts on behalf of the Democrats in each and every one of those races, his candidate lost. And while there is, indeed, a whiff of anti-incumbency in the air, Corzine was the only incumbent on that list where that point can even be debated. (House incumbent Sestak beat Senate incumbent Specter.) Obama himself may be the most vulnerable incumbent, and his “help” could be the kiss of death.

Searching desperately for something resembling a shred of good news from Tuesday’s results, Democrats are celebrating their ability to hold on to a House congressional seat (until November, at least) in Pennsylvania held for 36 years by the late Rep. John Murtha (D) in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin. But Democrats opining that holding Murtha’s seat is an omen for their party’s fortunes come November are more foolish than prescient.

Democrat operatives are loath to admit the hotly contested Pennsylvania primary between Specter and Sestak spurred more Democrats to get out and vote, thus putting Democrat Mark Critz over the finish line in Murtha’s congressional district. Simple turnout levels between Republicans and the more passionate Democratic voters interested in the Senate primary are what most likely kept the seat in the “D” column.

Pennsylvania Democrats came out to vote so they could vote against Obama’s pick for the Senate. Obama had nothing to do with Critz’s win. Putting the full weight of his presidency behind Specter failed, just as it failed in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

With Obama’s approval rating below 50 percent (according to the most recent Real Clear Politics poll average) and his approval and disapproval numbers just about even, his astonishingly high self-esteem isn’t likely to save him or his party. Prior to Brown’s stunning win over Coakley, the Democrats’ supposed heir apparent to the late Ted Kennedy’s throne, Obama was queried about Democrats’ trepidation about November. Obama unflinchingly stated, “The difference between here [2010] and ’94 is, now you have me.” Yes. We do. Along with government takeover of our health, banking and auto industries and the saddling of our nation with debt burdens for generations to come.

Perhaps Specter’s defeat, Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s (D-Ark.) being forced into a runoff and the cold, sobering reality of Sen. Brown, Virginia Gov. McDonnell and New Jersey Gov. Christie will knock some of the wind out of Obama’s sails, forcing him to face the truth. But if arrogance continues to trump practical considerations, Obama will forge ahead and Republicans will cheerfully scatter rose petals along the road on which he travels.


How does this affect the Obama agenda? He no doubt is capable of recognizing which way the arrows are pointing and knew he was trending downward when he strong-armed Democrats into voting for his wildly unpopular healthcare reform debacle. Democrats counting on the ’08 Obama popularity to buoy them now find themselves sinking. But their celebratory rhetoric since Tuesday seems to indicate they still believe — or at least want us to believe they believe.

Democrats continue to party like it’s 1994.

Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.