House Democrats' Need/Disdain for President

Obama's organization more popular than the man

Emily Cahn, Roll Call


House Democrats face a conundrum in 2014: They can’t run with the president, but they don’t want to run without his campaign organization either.

On the surface, vulnerable Democrats in conservative districts will likely be aided by President Barack Obama’s absence from the ballot in 2014. But in some districts, Democrats will miss the president’s campaign organization and robust turnout operation.

“The reality is that there are a handful of districts around the country where the president’s campaign was a hindrance rather than a help, and in those particular races the Democratic candidate will be far better off not having the president on the ballot at the same time in 2014,” said David Heller, a consultant who advises several Democrats in competitive districts.

Amid the president’s testy visit with congressional Democrats Wednesday, the caucus’s political challenges remained clear. House Democrats must pick up 17 seats to win the majority — a tough climb in a year that’s expected to yield only a couple of dozen competitive races.

That’s because both parties are looking at a smaller House playing field in 2014. House Democrats must defend nine districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012, while House Republicans must defend 17 districts that Obama carried that year.

What’s more, this cycle marks the first time most House Democrats will run in new districts, making turnout even more unpredictable.

With that in mind, CQ Roll Call has assembled a list of which House Democrats might be affected — for better or worse — by the president’s absence from the ballot.

Georgia’s 12th District

Democratic Rep. John Barrow has survived the GOP’s target list — and Democratic presidential tickets — many times before. His district voted for GOP presidential candidates for three consecutive presidential cycles, but Barrow has still pulled off victories, often by large margins.

Still, there’s reason to believe next year could be more difficult for Barrow. Obama’s absence from the ballot could depress much of the district’s black population, which makes up at least a third of the district’s voting population, according to one Democratic source.

Illinois’ 10th and 12th Districts

These Democrat-held districts could be battlegrounds again next year, thanks in part to their hometown president’s absence from the ballot. In 2012, Democrats picked up four seats in Illinois as the party’s base came out in droves. (House Democrats are also helped by a new, favorable congressional map drawn by state lawmakers.)

To be sure, Democrats won’t miss the Obama campaign infrastructure because it didn’t exist in one of the party’s most reliable states. But recent history shows midterm elections are more favorable for Republicans in the Prairie State, giving Democrats some concerns.

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