Obama helps governors to help himselfAug 16th, 2010 | By politicsnews | Category: Politics
President Barack Obama will do more in two days this week for his party’s candidates for governor than he has done all year, wrapping his arm around several of the most highly touted gubernatorial hopefuls on the ballot in 2010.
But the logic behind Obama’s upcoming appearances in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin goes well beyond this election cycle. With 37 gubernatorial elections on the ballot this fall, the president has homed in on three of the only states that offer competitive gubernatorial contests this year and also are likely to be pivotal in his 2012 re-election campaign.
Obama will start in Wisconsin on Monday with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who the White House helped recruit to run for governor. On Wednesday, he’ll headline a fundraiser for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in Columbus before flying to Miami to give a boost to Alex Sink, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor of Florida, at an event for the state party.
The importance of those three states to the 2012 map is not lost on the White House. With the political muscle governors can bring to a presidential campaign, electing Sink, Strickland and Barrett – or some of them – could offer Obama a powerful firewall against any Republican opponent two years from now.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said there’s “no question” that the gubernatorial races in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin will have an impact on the president’s election, and that having Democrats in charge would “absolutely” help Obama in 2012.
“Strong gubernatorial races in all three of those states will help the ticket top to bottom, and having governors in those states in 2012 certainly will help him,” Gibbs said.
He stressed the significance of swing states like those Obama will visit this week to the president’s long-term efforts, and the importance of “insuring that we get and continue to keep motivated the first-time surge voters that we saw in 2008.”
“Nobody can do that like the president,” Gibbs said, “and reminding particularly those people about what’s at stake is tremendously important.”
Governors’ races have received relatively little attention from Obama so far this cycle, even as Democrats fret about the prospect of major losses at the gubernatorial level. Obama’s campaign activities have overwhelmingly targeted Senate candidates and federal campaign committees. (While he’s engaging with several gubernatorial elections this week, he’ll also raise money in Seattle for Sen. Patty Murray and in Los Angeles for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.)
Obama has appeared at fundraisers for Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a personal friend. In 2009, he helped both New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds in their unsuccessful campaigns. And last October Obama headlined an event for the Democratic Governors Association.
Now, less than three months before Election Day, other governor’s races are creeping onto the president’s radar. The White House says gubernatorial candidates are getting Obama at this point in the year because it’s an important money-raising season, but it’s clear that Democrats need all the help they can get. Retiring Democratic governors have left open seats in states such as Wyoming and Kansas, and incumbents are struggling amid the recession even in Democrat-friendly states like Illinois and Pennsylvania.