WASHINGTON — Barack Obama’s growing unpopularity in swing states like Colorado has prompted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reach for another party leader to campaign for Democrats like Sen. Mark Udall – former President Bill Clinton.
The Democratic Senate leader suggested that Obama would drag down the party’s candidates in highly competitive states, and implied during his weekly press conference Tuesday that Clinton should campaign in his place.
The Colorado Observer asked Reid if he had advised Obama or his White House aides to campaign for Udall. The Nevada lawmaker deflected the question but signaled that it would not be in Udall’s best interest.
“You would have to talk with Mark. He knows his state better than I do,” Reid said.
“We have one president, Clinton, who’s touring around the country and he’s doing a great job,” Reid said.
Despite being impeached by the House, Clinton remains a popular draw on the Democratic campaign circuit. He appeared at a high-profile campaign event Tuesday for Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Kentucky Democrat who hopes to unseat Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Udall is not listed among the ten most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2014; the Rothenberg Political Report rates his seat as “currently safe” for a Democrat.
Yet deputy editor Nathan L. Gonzalez noted that Udall’s poll ratings are in the mid-40s against “underwhelming and unknown Republicans.”
Udall’s sagging popularity is tied to his votes supporting the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislative achievement. Obama’s approval ratings in Colorado were 42 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll last month.
Udall, a freshman Senator, does not appear anxious for Obama to come to his aid this campaign season. Udall repeatedly evaded direct questions from a CNN reporter following Obama’s State of the Union address, who asked if he wanted the president to stump on his behalf.
One Republican operative acknowledged that Clinton could help Udall in Colorado.
“He could be a net positive. If Clinton came in and was used correctly, he could raise money and be a good draw,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter frankly.
The GOP politico added that Republicans could put Udall on the defensive if they emphasized that Obama declined to appear in the state. “It depends how Republicans spin it. If they were able to point out Obama’s absence, they could use it to their advantage.”
In 2010, Clinton stumped for Democratic candidates who supported his wife Hillary Clinton in her close but unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination two years earlier. Udall remained neutral in the drawn-out race until after the 2008 Democratic primary.
Senate Republicans would need to win six seats this fall to recapture control of the upper chamber. While Republican strategists concede that Colorado leans Democratic in presidential elections, they believe the state is more competitive in off-year congressional elections in which key Democratic constituencies vote at reduced levels.
Udall is not without resources of his own. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado is the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this election cycle, and is in charge of distributing campaign funding to help Senate candidates nationwide.