No doubt we saw this coming, but now it’s official: Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) will not appear at a campaign fundraiser back home headlined by the president today, according to the Associated Press. Duty calls, guys:
President Barack Obama on Wednesday will headline his first fundraiser for a Senate Democrat in danger of losing this fall — but the candidate, Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, won't be by his side.
In a last minute switch, Udall's campaign says the senator plans to stay in Washington to vote on Obama's nominee to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The decision is likely to spark new questions about the political risks for vulnerable Democrats in being linked with an increasingly unpopular president.
"Mark is grateful for the president's support, and had hoped to welcome him to Colorado in person, but his responsibilities to serve Colorado in the Senate come first," spokesman Chris Harris said.
His responsibilities as a United States Senator must take precedence, he affirms. But even before he decided to stay in Washington to fulfil his constitutional obligations as an elected official, he took calculated steps to ensure that he and the president wouldn’t be seen chumming it up together. The AP explains:
Udall had already been planning to limit his appearances with the president. The fundraiser is off limits to news cameras. And Udall's campaign announced earlier in the week that the senator would not attend the president's economic speech in Denver Wednesday morning, ensuring that there would be no photos of the two men together.
Meanwhile, his opponent, Cory Gardner, has been anticipating the fundraiser for quite some time, and using it to score political points. For example, the Gardner campaign released this statement two days ago about the president's impending visit:
Just months after Senator Udall refused to answer on national television whether or not he would campaign with President Obama (four times!), the president is headed to Denver. This morning, the White House announced that in addition to raising money for Senator Udall, President Obama will be giving a speech on the economy, though members of the public are prohibited from attending.
“Senator Udall has spent his entire campaign dividing Coloradans — he speaks nonstop about divisive social issues, spreading lies about his opponent in hopes that voters will forget about his failed record on the economy and healthcare,” said campaign spokesman Alex Siciliano. “News that President Obama will be speaking about the economy on Wednesday in Denver must have hit Senator Udall hard. He is now going to have to answer for his votes for the failed healthcare bill, higher taxes, and increased government spending. Senator Udall has been in elected office nearly two decades, but he still can’t explain to Coloradans what he’s accomplished for our state, why the economy is struggling, and his plan to create jobs.”
Polls show the race is exceedingly tight and expected to get even tighter. This explains why Udall doesn’t want to be seen with the president -- who, according to a freshly-released Quinnipiac University poll, only boasts a 38 percent approval rating in the Centennial State. However, in fairness to Sen. Udall, he’s not the only one avoiding the president when he visits. Other vulnerable Senate Democrats are doing the exact same thing:
Alaska Sen. Mark Begich has said he is "not really interested" in campaigning with Obama, and he reminds reporters that he won in 2008 while Obama was losing the state by 21 percentage points.
In North Carolina, a spokeswoman for Sen. Kay Hagan said no presidential visits were scheduled but added that "President Obama is welcome to come to North Carolina any time, including for our campaign." However, Hagan was absent when Obama visited Raleigh in January.
Obama has had occasional contact with vulnerable Democrats in their home states, but not for campaign purposes. In May, he spent several hours with Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor touring damage from a tornado that devastated swaths of the state. And in November, Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu got a ride from Washington to New Orleans with Obama on Air Force One, then skipped the event he had scheduled in her hometown.
At any rate, collecting donations from a fundraiser you won't attend seems like a pretty sweet gig, no? Hence why I wouldn't be surprised if other Senate Democrats soon begin adopting this strategy as well.