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Political Notebook

Democrats suffering ‘Obama Hangover’

Los Angeles Times / October 26, 2009

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As he is quick to point out, President Obama is presiding over two wars, a sour economy, and an epic fight to rebuild the nation’s health care system.

Now he has tacked on state and local political races. With an off-year election fast approaching, Obama is stepping up his commitment to Democratic candidates in hopes that an infusion of campaign charisma might pump up turnout.

What the party is finding, though, is that the electricity of 2008 is tough to recapture. Some Democratic candidates running for local office around the country call the phenomenon the “Obama Hangover.’’ It is proving tougher to recruit volunteers and get people to vote.

“It’s like the morning after the party,’’ said Michael McGann, a Democrat running for clerk of courts in the Philadelphia suburbs. “The party was wonderful and exciting. The day after it’s like, ‘Gee, I don’t want to do that again for a while.’ ’’

Obama is trying to inspire voters with the “fired up; ready to go’’ fervor that made last year’s race riveting political theater.

But Democratic candidates are hard pressed to scratch out victories this year in the New Jersey and Virginia governor’s races, and in a congressional race in upstate New York’s 23d District.

In New Jersey, local issues such as high property taxes loom large. Asked if an appearance by Obama would make them more likely to vote for Governor Jon Corzine, the Democratic incumbent, nearly three-quarters of state voters polled said no.

Conditions look even tougher for Democrats in Virginia. A recent survey showed the Democratic candidate for governor, Creigh Deeds, trailing Republican Bob McDonnell by 12 points.

Worse for the Democrats, if any one constituency is energized this season it’s conservatives, who are angry about rising deficits, some pollsters said.

“There’s real anger on the right, and that anger isn’t matched by enthusiasm on the left,’’ said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. “So the emotion is on the side of the far right.’’

A clean sweep by Democrats looks unattainable. So for Obama, the question is how much to invest in what could turn out to be losing candidacies.

“They’re trying to make sure they’re responsive to the needs and wants of the campaigns, and at the same time recognize the limits of their usefulness,’’ said Jim Margolis, who was a senior adviser to Obama’s presidential campaign. “If I were advising him, I would advise him not to set up campaigns in New Jersey and Virginia.’’

Biden’s recalls rejecting first running mate offer
Remember that story how then-senator Joe Biden became Barack Obama’s Democratic vice presidential running mate?

In the summer of 2008, Biden had accompanied his wife to the dentist’s office for a root canal. He got a call there from Obama, who offered him the vice presidency. Biden accepted, if the job could be made meaningful.

Speaking at an annual Allegheny County Democratic Committee dinner in Pennsylvania last week, Biden told a curiously different version. He said he rejected Obama’s offer flat-out when first approached.

“I initially said no, that I wasn’t interested,’’ Biden said, but he agreed to think about it.

“A couple months later,’’ Biden said, Obama repeated the offer in a hotel room in Minneapolis. The senator looked at Obama and said, “Are you really committed to changing the course of this country?’’

“He reached out, shook my hand and said, ‘I am.’ ’’