It’s legacy-building time for President Obama. The commander-in-chief is strongly pushing his agenda, which includes curbing gun violence, fighting climate change, increasing taxes on America's wealthiest, and providing a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.
Getting those bills signed into law becomes much easier if the Democrats retain control of the Senate and win majority control of the House in 2014. But here's the catch: how do you win in Red States while advocating gun control and immigration reform--issues that tend to do well in reliably blue states? Obama's desire to leave his mark is at odds with his need to help Democrats win more seats in the midterms.
Democrats in historically red states have some potentially tough races coming up.
That includes Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Max Baucus in Montana, South Dakota's Tim Johnson, and Kay Hagan in North Carolina. Those are all races in states that Mitt Romney won. There could also be looming trouble for the Democrat who runs for Jay Rockefeller's seat in West Virginia. Conservatives believe they have a huge opportunity, as reported by the Washington Times on Monday.
Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee told Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Tuesday that “there’s always a danger” for those Red State Dems, but pointed out there were five senators that won in states the president lost. “The way you do it is you represent the people of your state…They don’t want a Xerox machine as their senator that looks at where the president votes… and does the same thing. They want sombody that represents their state and the thing we have to learn is the lesson that the Republicans are trying to teach us. The fastest way to be a minority party is to have a long list of things that everyone has to check off in order to be a member of the party.”
Maggie Haberman of Politico told Matthews that there’s likely to be a mix of Democratic lawmakers in tough races who vote with the majority and help pass Obama’s bills, in addition to those who lay low to save their seat.
“I think you have seen it in response to immigration in the last couple days with some of the senators…who are not offering up huge stand of support of getting something done immediately. They’re taking more of a wait-and-see attitude. I think you’re going to see a lot of that. Where I think you will see it more, however, is on guns rather than immigration. I think that’s going to be a much tougher sell,” said Haberman.
Does the president need to win the House and hold the Senate to be truly transformational in his second term, asked Matthews.
“No. But it would help. And I don’t think it’s going to happen. I don’t think they’re going to win the House,” said Haberman.
Cecil agreed, but said, “We intend to hold the Senate. No one thought we could hold it last cycle. Not only did we hold it, we picked up seats.”