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Democrats can’t count on Obama’s support in mid-terms

The Democrats look like they have a tough time ahead of them for the congressional mid-term elections in November.

In the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Matt Bai raised the question of whether President Obama will provide leadership and support for his fellow Democrats. Bai, an astute observer, writes:

Obama ran on the notion of transcending partisan distinctions, rather than making them permanent, and the political identity that enabled him to draw millions of new voters into the process two years ago is both intensely personal and self-contained. It’s not clear that Obama can translate his appeal among disaffected voters into support for a party and its aging Washington establishment. Nor is it clear, as he looks ahead to 2012, how hard he’s going to try.

Bai describes how the Obama campaign created “an alternative to the party apparatus itself,” with its own list of 10 million names of supporters, activists and donors. This network is “loyal to the president but not to his party”. The fact that first-time voters in November 2008 did not come out to vote for Democrats in 2009 elections in New Jersey and Virginia “jolted a lot of Democrats who assumed, after 2008, that Obama’s victory somehow permanently changed the electoral math.”

This is an issue I've addressed before. For example, in a review of The Audacity to Win, by Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, in the spiked review of books, I wrote:

It is also striking how the Obama campaign was really about Obama himself and not the Democratic Party. After the election, Plouffe noted in an interview that ‘the party apparatus was less important’, but that is a gross understatement – the campaign ran in the other direction from the party. As Plouffe highlights in his book, time and again the Obama campaign avoided party fundraising events and rejected offers of assistance from local party and other traditional party-related interest-group leaders, preferring instead to appeal to voters directly. Consequently, Obama’s victory was not a victory for the Democratic Party itself. Democrats lost many prominent races in this year’s November elections (such as the governors’ races in New Jersey and Virginia), showing how the ‘Obama brand’ does not extend to fellow Democrats.

Bai concludes his article by noting:

Obama seems to exist on a separate plane from his party’s other elected leaders, somehow deflecting much of the anti-Washington fervor that threatens to dispatch the rest of them. This is probably not only because voters see him as a more inspiring leader than Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, but also because they don’t see him as a party leader at all, at least in the traditional sense.

It appear that the Democrats will enter the mid-term elections leader-less.

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