Obama’s Upstate Agenda
ICYMI, here’s today’s Morning Memo:
While economically challenged upstate can certainly use the publicity a presidential visit brings, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me why the White House would chose to include Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton in its help-the-middle-class bus tour next week.
Scranton, PA would make sense if the president were running for another term. But since he’s barred from doing so, the Keystone State is no longer a must-do on his itinerary, either.
It is a legacy thing, I wondered aloud during our weekly Tuesday Insiders segment, asking Brendan Quinn and Bruce Gyory to weigh in with their thoughts.
Quinn, thinking like the former state GOP executive director he is, reminded me of what should have been obvious: This trip is just as much about politics as policy – if not more so.
Next year, Obama faces his last round of midterm congressional elections before he leaves the White House. And it would help the president cement his legacy if he could flip the House into Democratic hands – not to mention prevent the Republicans from taking control of the US Senate.
Things aren’t looking terribly good for the Democrats in 2014 at the moment in either case.
That’s despite Obama’s claims this spring that the party has a “great chance” of wresting control of the House from the Republicans who have stymied much of his agenda since they took over in the 2010 midterms, and also in spite of a May Q poll that showed Democrats with a slight competitive edge on a generic congressional ballot.
New York, despite the fact that it is dominated by Democrats, had a handful of competitive congressional races in 2012, thanks to the fact that a judge – not the state Legislature – drew the district lines.
And several of those same districts appear to be in play again next fall, which helps explain Obama’s latest upstate jaunt.
Buffalo, which US Sen. Chuck Schumer confirmed yesterday (ahead of today’s official word from the White House) is indeed on the president’s agenda next Thursday, is home to Republican Rep. Chris Collins, who defeated a former Democratic rising star, Kathy Hochul, last fall.
Collins’ district is one of the most GOP-dominated in the state, and he doesn’t appear particularly vulnerable. But he is particularly vocal about a pet Republican issue – repealing Obamacare – and his win against Hochul stung for the Democrats, who made a national example of her victory in a 2011 special election.
Western New York is also a focus for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who hasn’t been particularly close to Obama since he took over the governor’s mansion in January 2011. Aug. 22 – the date of Obama’s trip to the Queen City – is also opening day at the New York State Fair, which Cuomo is scheduled to attend, but it won’t be at all surprising if Cuomo tries to do both events.
Because accompanying Obama to the Southern Tier – assuming that stop doesn’t occur on the same day as the Buffalo trip – might be tricky for Cuomo, given the fact that the region is the heart of the fracking debate and the president has spoken numerous times in favor of natural gas drilling.
The area is also home to a top Democratic 2014 target: Rep. Tom Reed, who is already being pressured by the DCCC and his challenger, Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman Martha Robertson.
The Democrats came closer than expected to taking out Reed with their 2012 candidate, Tompkins County Legislator Nate Shinagawa. But without Obama on the ticket, the Democrats who are drawn out every four years to vote in a presidential election won’t likely show up at the polls, which makes it harder for Reed to be beat.
In Central New York, Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei is going to be defending the seat he took back from Republican Ann Marie Buerkle last fall. Maffei seems to have learned his lesson from his first trip to Congress, and is now voting more independently from the House leadership to avoid getting tarred as a Nancy Pelosi-loving liberal.
Obama already did Maffei a favor by tapping Buerkle, who had been eyeing a re-match next fall, to serve s a Republican commissioner on the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. If the president does stop in Syracuse, you can bet Maffei is going to be front-and-center and looking for a shout-out from the commander-in-chief.
I noted last night that Obama’s poll numbers aren’t stellar in upstate. But, as Gyory noted, they’re above the magic 50 percent mark, and any time a president pays a visit, it not only elevates the area for the day, but also its local Democratic elected officials.
And this far out from the 2014 elections, they will no doubt welcome any attention they can get.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on August 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm, and is filed under 2014, Barack Obama, Congress, Democrats, Uncategorized, Upstate NY. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|