Should PEBO Go Down to Georgia?

By MichaelJames

Nov 20, 2008 9:55pm

One of the few complaints Democrats level about PEBO (President-elect Barack Obama) was that he did little to spread the wealth of his magnificence to help other Democrats in their election contests.

Some Democrats in the House and Senate say that the Obama campaign field staff did a great deal to help out House and Senate candidates. But in terms of personal appearances and TV and radio ads, there was very little, if anything, that Obama himself did personally.

It’s not that Democrats don’t understand it — popularity is a valuable commodity, and one wants to spend it carefully so as to not cheapen it.

Obama had his own race to run and win, and at the end of the day who knew he would win so handily?

But Democrats complain, nonetheless.

Back when PEBO was a mere senator and presidential candidate, despite his strong popularity in states such as Maine (which he won by 17 percentage points) or Minnesota (which he won by 10 percentage points), he refused entreaties to cut TV ads for the Senate candidates.

Did Democrats ask Obama to cut a TV ad for, for instance, Minnesota Senate candidate Al Franken and he said no?

Democrats say yep.

He only cut one TV ad for any Democratic Senate candidate, in fact — for Jeff Merkley in Oregon.

Explained Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, to the New York Observer’s Jason Horowitz: “In Oregon, he did the only commercial he filmed because I called him and I said, ‘Look, [incumbent GOP Sen.] Gordon Smith has put you, Barack Obama, on TV three or four times trying to convey the impression that you are really for him. The only antidote would be a commercial.’ The campaign was reluctant to do commercials for all the obvious reasons. But he stepped up to the plate and did this.”

What did PEBO’s reluctance mean, ultimately?  Perhaps nothing. Perhaps something.

"There were candidates from both the House and Senate who wanted Obama to do more for them," a knowledgeable Democrat says. And there was some frustration.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was re-elected. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., MAY have been reelected (a recount will determine that). 

Democrats from both those races would have loved Obama to have dropped in and sprinkled some of his magic popularity powder on them.

On the other hand, says our smart and fair Democratic source, "Senate and House candidates never think the guy at the top of the ticket is doing enough," and there was widespread understanding that the better Obama did — with or without TV ads and personal appearances on behalf of the down-ticket candidates — the better Democrats would do overall.

Democratic Senate candidates and many states were more popular than Obama, so they didn’t need his help: Senator-elect Kay Hagan, D-N.C., for instance. The Udalls in New Mexico and Colorado. Senator-elect Mark Warner, D-Va.

Senator-elect Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., whose husband once incorrectly contemplated how PEBO’s youthful drug use might be an impediment to the presidency, won by 15 points; Obama won New Hampshire by 9 points.

And while Obama won in Maine by 17 points, the Democratic Senate candidate there lost to Collins by 22 points. So every last drop of Obama’s mojo wouldn’t have made the difference there.

This Democrat says Merkley wouldn’t have won without Obama’s TV ad, that his field staffers in North Carolina helped Hagan and were it not for the Obama staffers in Georgia, Jim Martin would not currently be in that Dec. 2 Senate run-off race against Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

Which brings us to that run-off race. There are 100 Obama field staffers on the ground working for Martin, and ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports that Obama has cut a radio ad for Martin.

"The elections aren’t over," Obama says in the ad. (Listen to it HERE.) "I want to urge you to turn out one more time and help elect Jim Martin to the United States Senate."

But, unlike Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who sucked it up and went down to Georgia to campaign for Chambliss, Obama is not planning right now on making a personal appearance or cutting a TV spot for Martin.

"You can see what the calculation is going through their heads right now," the Democrat says of Team Obama. "It’s not a high-reward proposition for him to go to Georgia right now."

If Martin wins, Obama will get the credit, the Democrat says, since Martin and Chambliss are very much running the race as a referendum on Obama. But if Martin loses, no one will blame Obama since, hey, it’s Georgia.

On the other hand, says the Democrat, "if Obama goes and campaigns there, he does own the success or failure of Jim Martin."

And with two wars, a financial meltdown, and a Cabinet to confirm, that is something PEBO will not do. Especially since Martin probably will not win. Pick your battles.

- jpt

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