Salena Zito

In November, Critz faces a tough challenge from Republican businessman Keith Rothfus, who barely lost to the incumbent Altmire in 2010.

Over in Ohio, Wilson’s challenge is of his own making: The moderate Democrat lost the seat in 2010 thanks to his support of President Obama’s health-care bill; that vote, along with stimulus-funding and other votes under then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, remain wildly unpopular in the 6th District.

West Virginia’s panhandle juts between Ohio and Pennsylvania and contains the same voter mindset of those bordering states. West Virginia’s new governor, a southern Mountain State Democrat, said late last week that Obama “has apparently made it his mission to drive the backbone of West Virginia's economy, coal and the energy industry, out of business … destroy(ing) the economic fabric of our state."

Obama is the problem for Critz, Wilson and a score of other Democrats campaigning for House seats across the country.

Republican Johnson won office on an anti-Obama wave – and Obama is still on the ballot. In 2006, House Democrats ran and won against Bush – and then Bush disappeared from the scene two years later.

Neither Critz nor Wilson has such a political luxury this election year.

While the latest Quinnipiac poll shows Obama still ahead of Romney in Pennsylvania, he has plunged in Ohio in a little more than a month in the same poll. Romney does not need to win Pennsylvania but he does need to keep it close; in contrast, Obama does need to win Ohio.

To win back or to hold their House seats, Democrats such as Critz and Wilson not only have to distance themselves from Obama but have to disavow their party’s president.

If they don't, not only will they lose but they will help Romney unseat the president.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.