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President Obama knows where he’s not welcome

BY , and   October 29, 2014 at 9:11 AM EDT
Democratic challenger for Wisconsin Governor, Mary Burke, and U.S. President Barack Obama wave to supporters at a campaign rally at North Devision High School in Milwaukee. Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images

President Barack Obama has been relegated to campaigning in places he is popular, like Wisconsin, where he showed support for Democrat Mary Burke who is running against incumbent Gov. Scott Walker. Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • President Obama’s been largely absent from the key Senate races, opting for liberal-leaning states
  • Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, are in the pivotal states
  • Not uncommon for presidents in a second term to not be welcome campaigners
  • Like Ike? Not in 1958. The midterm that set the stage for the Great Society measures

Obama’s blue-state push: President Obama largely has been missing from the campaign trail during this 2014 campaign. His unpopularity, sitting at about a 40 percent approval rating, is at about the lowest point of his presidency. And the places where this campaign is playing out, where the most competitive Senate races are, are in states he lost by double-digits during the 2012 presidential election. So over this last week, the president has been relegated to campaigning in places he is popular — blue states — and mostly for Democratic gubernatorial candidates, not Democrats in close Senate races. Last night, the president rallied at a school in Milwaukee for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, who is in a tight race with Republican incumbent Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 contender. As the Washington Post’s Katie Zezima noted Tuesday, “All of the places [Obama] visits will have at least one thing in common — the same thing all his fall stops have shared: they are places where people like him. Really, really like him.”

Playing it safe: For example, “Of the 850 votes cast in the school’s Milwaukee ward last year, 843 of them were for Obama,” Zezima wrote. “To put Obama’s week in some perspective, the stop on his itinerary where he had the least support in 2012 is Portland, Maine,” where “he got just 75 percent of the vote in that liberal stronghold, in a state that twice elected him.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest tried to put his best spin on it before a skeptical White House press corps. “There are so many stops that I have to look up exactly where the President is traveling,” Earnest said. That drew laughter. Just how toxic is President Obama in these red-state Senate races? Hillary Clinton is in Iowa today, and while President Obama is in Michigan Saturday, Clinton will be in Kentucky and Louisiana](http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/10/marylandrieuhillary_clinton.html) before heading to New Hampshire Sunday. Even Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts populist firebrand, was in Kentucky Tuesday, New Hampshire Saturday, and Iowa and Colorado before that. Jon Stewart called all this Democratic distancing from Obama, “POTUS-Partum Depression.” Here’s where the president’s been recently and where he’s going:

Sunday, Oct. 19: Chicago State University for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Maryland for gubernatorial hopeful Anthony Brown
Tuesday, Oct. 28: Milwaukee for gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke
Thursday, Oct. 30: Obama in Portland, Maine, for gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud, and Providence, Rhode Island (with First Lady Michelle Obama), where there’s a governor’s and mayor’s race. He endorsed Providence mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza, who’s running against twice-convicted felon and former mayor Buddy Cianci. Obama stays in Rhode Island Friday for remarks on the economy and women at Rhode Island College
Saturday, Nov. 1: Michigan with Senate candidate Gary Peters
Sunday, Nov. 2: Philadelphia for Tom Wolf running for governor and Connecticut for embattled Gov. Dan Malloy

Hardly an historical aberration: So what’s going on here? Is President Obama so toxic that he is unlike past presidents? Not quite. First, like we noted above, there are the fundamentals of this election. Despite being reelected in 2012, he lost the most competitive states where the hottest Senate races are being run by double-digits to Mitt Romney. Plus, there is truth to the so called six-year itch. Seven presidents have been reelected since the Great Depression, and in those second terms, a president’s party has lost an average of 26 House seats and seven Senate seats. The worst second midterm for any president since WWII was Dwight Eisenhower’s. And it’s a reminder that, even then, “small-ball” issues dominated news of the day and drove politics. Eisenhower’s “problems included influence-peddling charges against his White House chief of staff, national frustration over Soviet gains in space and missile technology and a bitter economic recession,” [notes the Senate Historical Office]https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/MidtermRevolution.htm) of the 1958 “Mid-Term Revolution.” The 13 seats gained by Democrats was and still is the single-largest gain by one party of Senate seats. That election gave Democrats a 64-36 majority and laid the foundation for the Great Society measures of the 1960s.

Six-Year Itch? Results for a president’s party since the Great Depression in a second midterm
1938 FDR -55 House, -6 Senate
1950 Truman -29 House, -6 Senate
1958 Eisenhower -48 House, -13 Senate
1986 Reagan -5 House, -8 Senate
1998 Clinton +5 House, No change in Senate
2006 Bush -30 House, -6 Senate
AVG: -26 House, -6.5 Senate

Quote of the day: “Because early voting runs through this Friday, you don’t have to wait till Election Day — you can vote all week. I mean, you can only vote once. This isn’t Chicago, now. I’m teasing Chicago. I’m messing with you. That was a long time ago,” President Obama to a rally in Milwaukee, Wisc., for Burke.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1901, Leon Czolgosz, the assassin of President McKinley, was electrocuted. Where was President McKinley assassinated? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. No one guessed Tuesday’s trivia: What document is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty’s tablet and who was the principal author? The answer was: July 4, 1776, representing the Declaration of Independence, written by Pres. Thomas Jefferson.

LINE ITEMS

  • President Obama on Tuesday had harsh words for policies that quarantine medical workers returning from Ebola-affected countries, but he stopped short of directly criticizing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. On Wednesday, the president will meet at the White House with doctors and public health workers who have just returned from or will soon be treating Ebola patients overseas.

  • Hackers have breached an unclassified computer network used by White House senior staff. The hackers are thought to be working for the Russian government.

  • Iowa Republican Joni Ernst leads Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley 49 percent to 45 percent in a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

  • Iowa is one of two states that has never sent a woman to Washington or elected a female governor, but breaking that glass ceiling is not part of Ernst’s “mother, soldier, leader” message to Iowans.

  • Thanks to strong support from male likely voters, Colorado Republican Bob Beauprez has a 45 to 40 percent advantage over Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

  • Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican Tom Foley are tied 43 to 43 percent with the Independent at 7 percent in a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

  • Alaska Sen. Mark Begich’s campaign has now spent more money touting Libertarian candidate Mark Fish than Fish has spent on himself.

  • The leaders of the two Senate campaign committees, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., are busy fighting for control of the Senate, but they’re also trying to defend seats in their own backyards for senior Sens. Mark Udall and Pat Roberts.

  • Lobbyists are using campaign contributions and lavish gifts to influence state attorneys general.

  • Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., might have been indicted on multiple counts of fraud and tax evasion this year, but one of his congressional buddies is saving a seat for Grimm on the Financial Services Committee.

  • The investigator leading the Department of Homeland Security’s inquiry into the Secret Service’s 2012 prostitution scandal resigned this summer over his own prostitution scandal.

  • Voters in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., could provide the second wave of marijuana legalization next week.

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says a repeal of the Affordable Care Act won’t happen anytime soon, even if the Republicans do take over the Senate.

  • Eli Stokols, a reporter and anchor for Denver’s KDVR-TV, explains, from a local perspective in Politico Magazine, how Democrats came to be on the defensive in Colorado.

  • If Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker manages to hold onto his seat, it will be a testament to the divide-and-conquer strategy he’s used since 2010, but it will also be a reflection of Walker’s own lowered expectations; instead of making Wisconsin an example of conservative reform, he will have barely held on.

  • After next week, the GOP could control even more than the 59 of 98 partisan legislative chambers (in 49 states) it already controls.

  • The Supreme Court will soon hear a high-profile case against the United Parcel Service for denying temporary light-duty assignment to a pregnant worker. But UPS has now changed their policy, although they maintain that it wasn’t unlawful at the time, so they shouldn’t be on the hook for damages.

  • Georgia Republicans aren’t happy about the license plate on Democrat Jason Carter’s campaign bus.

  • Will we be seeing more of Sarah Palin?

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

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