The Washington Post is reporting it as one of the most painful 40 seconds of this election cycle. Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) was asked a simple question: did you vote for President Obama. What followed in the clip below was one of the most revealing 40 seconds of how bad this election is becoming for Democrats and how radioactive the President has become. Grimes refuses to answer. She is trying to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and these mid-term elections tend to reflect the view of the incumbent president as some voters try to either add support or resistance to a president in Congress. Obama’s popularity stands at a dismal 30 percent in Kentucky. The clip is particularly interesting given the recent public statements of the President that this election is about his policies. It was an effort to rally Democrats but candidates who have been increasingly fleeing associations with the unpopular president cringed across the country. Given Obama’s national polling, an election based his policies and Administration would magnify the already great expected losses in November, including the possible loss of both houses. Even long-time ally and former campaign manager David Axelrod said that the President’s framing of the election as a vote on his policies was a huge mistake. The deer in the headlights look of Grimes reflects that point vividly.
The President’s words actually started out reflecting the national strategy of the Democratic National Committee to minimize his profile and policies in this election but he then veered directly into the wall that the Democrats are trying desperately (and unsuccessfully) to avoid:
“I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”
You could hear Democratic candidates collectively moaning with the last part of the message. Grimes vividly illustrates the fear of association with Obama. Grimes repeatedly refuses to even admit that she voted for the leader of her party in 2008 and 2012. It was, as the Post notes, an easy question to address. Just say that you voted for him but you are disappointed in him. Instead, Grimes refuses repeatedly to answer the question from the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board.
She then takes an equally curious spin by insisting that she is a Hillary Clinton supporter, something that is only marginally better in Kentucky.
I continually find such transformations among politicians fascinating. They will flock around a popular president as they once did with Obama but have no hesitation to treat him like a pariah once his polling numbers fall. It does not play well, as shown on this video, but they assume it is worse to admit even the slightest level of prior support for an unpopular president.
Civil libertarians have long been opposed to Obama, who quickly shredded his promised reforms from the first election and launched comprehensive attack on privacy, press rights, and other core values. However, civil libertarians remain a small part of the electorate, which is why they were the first to be jettisoned by the Obama Administration. Now there is a far broader level of opposition building around policies like immigration, health care, and international relations — the very policies that Obama highlighted as the real issue for races like that of Grimes.
Grimes is the daughter of Charlotte and Jerry Lundergan, a former Kentucky Democratic chairman and state representative. She is also a law graduate of American University. Grimes was viewed as serious challenge to McConnell who could be attacked as the classic Washington insider. However, she has been criticized for a lackluster campaign. What is fascinating is that her lead among women is only one percent, according to an article in The Week.
There is still a possibility of the classic “October surprise” factor in shifting such polls and prospects. At the moment, Obama could be looking at the lamest of lame duck terms if both houses go to the GOP. He is not alone. Democratic candidates are even turning on Nancy Pelosi on the campaign trail. The wedge political issues advanced by Pelosi over things like immigration have not panned out. Instead there has been a back lash that led Obama to promise Democrats that he would not act on immigration until after voters went to the polls. Gwen Graham, one of the Democratic Party’s candidates in Florida ran an ad saying “Here’s what I believe: Congress is broken” — it showed a picture of Pelosi as well as John Boehner. Other candidates are doing the same — running against their own leader in the house. These are strange times indeed.