Much is being made this election season of President Obama's drag on Democratic candidates in close races and swing states. What's less clear is where Obama is helping.
With just 38 percent of Americans in a recent Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll saying Obama deserves to be re-elected, the president's role in the midterms is increasingly dwindling to helping get voters to the polls and raising money for candidates.
Reminiscent of former President George W. Bush's last two years in office, Obama's limited coattails are a sharp reversal from two years ago.
“The problem with high expectations is that when you fail to meet them, it's a bigger disappointment,” said Dennis Goldford, a Drake University political scientist.
Obama on Wednesday was campaigning in Iowa, where he won the crucial presidential caucuses in a major upset in 2008. Today, however, the Des Moines Register's latest poll shows that 55 percent of Iowans say the are dissatisfied with the job Obama is doing, especially on the economy.
The Register noted that Obama wasn't joined at his Iowa stops by any of the state's high-profile Democratic candidates, most of whom are trailing their Republican challengers, badly.
“There is a scrambling feel to this campaign, that he is trying to pick up what he should have been doing a year-and-a-half ago, which is getting in front of this economic disaster,” Goldford said.
The president on Tuesday headlined a Democratic National Committee rally in Madison, Wis. Sen. Russell Feingold, who was not expected to attend the rall,y changed his mind Tuesday afternoon and made a short speech at the rally. Feingold is trailing Republican challenger Ron Johnson by 12 percentage points.
Obama's Madison rally was part of a larger push to re-engage young voters and other key constituencies of the Democratic base.
“With the state of the Democrats right now, I'd say that would be like trying to raise the living dead in Wisconsin,” said state Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus.
There are some states where Obama remains popular, including Illinois, Hawaii, Delaware, Maryland and New York. And Obama could still boost candidates in California and Florida.
In California, Survey USA recently put Obama's approval rating at 55 percent, and Obama has been helping Sen. Barbara Boxer in her race against Republican challenger Carly Fiorina.
After running neck-and-neck, Boxer has finally pulled ahead of Fiorina, 51 percent to 43 percent, in a new Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll.
In Florida, Obama could help Sunshine State candidates including Democrat Kendrick Meek, who is trailing badly in his Senate race against Republican Marco Rubio and Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist, said Aubrey Jewett, a University of Central Florida political scientist.
“Meek is in such dire circumstances he really should just have Obama come down,” Jewett said. “He couldn't really do [Meeks] any harm, at least.”
Jewett said Obama should ditch the quiet, backyard events and closed fundraisers that have been the subdued low lights of the campaign so far, and instead do a series of big, barnstorming Democratic rallies around the country.
“Would it do any good? I don't know,' Jewett said. “It seems to me that either way, the Democrats are on a path to losing.”