President Obama has delivered a humbling message to fellow Democrats: He admits he is unpopular in much of the country and will understand if legislators don't want to appear with him on the campaign trail.
Obama made the remarks in a private session with Senate Democrats Wednesday. "He said he knew he is not popular in some of the states so he would not be offended if he were not invited to visit them this year," a senator told the Washington Post. "But he said he could be helpful in some parts of some states." The senator requested anonymity in order to discuss the private meeting candidly.
Obama has now completed his latest round of outreach to congressional Democrats, but there is still a wide gap separating him from some legislators on major issues. The legislators say Obama's unpopularity hurts them back home, and they want to keep their distance. Only about 45 percent of Americans approve of Obama's job performance, according to various polls.
Former President Bill Clinton, one of the most popular political figures in the Democratic party, also addressed the senators Wednesday in a private meeting room at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium. It was the third straight day of schmoozing by Obama. On Monday, he discussed strategy for the 2014 elections with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. On Tuesday, he talked with House Democrats, who hope to move from the minority to the majority in the November election, although that appears to be only a remote possibility.
Democrats hold a 55-45 edge in the Senate, but this majority is precarious because so many vulnerable Democratic incumbents are up for re-election this fall, including Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Obama is unpopular in all of those states, and so the incumbents are trying to show independence from him.
A source who attended the senatorial meeting told Reuters, “He made clear that his agenda, which is focused on expanding opportunity for all, is more likely to advance when the majority of senators support it. So, the president vowed to do what he can to support Democratic candidates in the mid-term elections.”
Among Obama’s policy priorities are raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour, improving the country’s infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and expanding educational opportunities and job training. But while Obama has support for these objectives, some Democrats are defying him on other issues, such as opposing his request for fast-track authority for international trade agreements, and opposing his administration's efforts to limit coal-fired power plants.Over the past few months, the faulty implementation of Obama's health care law has undermined public confidence in both Obama and the federal government.