Vulnerable Democrats this cycle are increasingly relying on former President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail as President Joe Biden keeps a light schedule less than a week from the midterm election.
Obama, who left office six years ago, is campaigning hard for Democratic candidates across the country from Arizona to Georgia. In the past week alone, Obama has traveled to at least five states to hold rallies and events with Democratic candidates from the U.S. Senate down to state legislatures.
“Obama is the most popular Democrat out there, but that’s because he is out, not in, politics,” said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster, strategist and Fox News contributor.
Obama is not the only Democratic heavyweight to re-emerge as a surrogate in the waning days of the midterm cycle. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are similarly taking to the hustings for vulnerable Democrats.
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Bill Clinton has appeared at a series of campaign rallies for Democrats running in tight House races in recent days. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is set to campaign with New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday. Bill Clinton is expected to make an appearance with the governor this weekend as well.
“Midterms are usually a referendum on the sitting president,” said J. Miles Coleman, a political and elections analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “So, it’s not surprising to see the Clintons, who are seen as party elders, hitting the campaign trail in New York, where the former secretary won statewide office twice as a senator.”
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Biden, meanwhile, is scheduled to appear at a handful of events between now and Election Day. Two are taking place Thursday when the president will travel to New Mexico and California to rally supporters.
On Saturday, Biden will swing through Chicago before heading to Pennsylvania with Obama to campaign for Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman. Biden will then appear in Maryland on Election Day alongside Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore, who polls show leading against a far-right Republican.
“To be branded as a Biden Democrat is a loser with undecided voters,” said Nathan Brand, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “Biden can’t step foot in a swing district without reminding voters of the inflation Democrats caused, surging crime and high gas prices.”
Biden’s light campaign schedule comes as polls show the president’s job-approval rating remains underwater. Despite rebounding slightly since the summer, more voters still disapprove of Biden’s stewardship of the country than approve.
A Fox News Poll released this month shows 53% of voters disapprove of the job Biden is doing within the White House, compared to 46% that approve.
“Given Biden’s ratings, he really can’t be effective in swing states or districts right now, and so it makes sense to use him on the peripheral, if at all,” said Penn.
Presidents skipping out on the campaigning during a tough midterm election is nothing new. Both Obama and Bill Clinton remained on the sidelines during the first midterm of their presidencies.
The tactic makes it easier to provide distance for candidates belonging to the same party as an unpopular president.
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Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a veteran Ohio Democrat facing a spirited challenge after redistricting, is running ads criticizing the president and pledging to work with Republicans.
“I’ve worked with Republicans to help make America energy independent, and I took on Joe Biden for not supporting Ohio energy and manufacturing jobs,” Kaptur says in one ad.