Texas Democrats continue to avoid Obama

El Paso Times:

President Barack Obama will arrive in El Paso at a time of discontent, when the country's economic and labor market looks as uncertain as the future of its foreign policy.

Obama on Tuesday will visit Fort Bliss to mark the end of combat operations in Iraq. He will meet with soldiers in anticipation of a new phase of military action that begins in September with about 50,000 soldiers staying to "advise and assist" the Iraqis.

This emotional moment with historic significance does not mean Democratic candidates in Texas and New Mexico want to stand shoulder to shoulder with the commander in chief. Even in El Paso, where an overwhelming 68 percent voted for Obama in 2008, candidates facing tough races in November will not be on hand for his speech.

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White will be absent. So will New Mexico's Democratic nominee for governor, Diane Denish.

Two Texas Democrats facing difficult re-election campaigns, state Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso and U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez of San Antonio, said Friday that they had not decided whether they would be at Fort Bliss for the president's appearance.

White, who is challenging Republican incumbent Rick Perry, will campaign Tuesday in Fort Worth.

"His job is to go out every day and meet Texans, earn their votes," said Katy Bacon, a spokeswoman for White.


Obama's approval rating has dipped from 67 percent when he took office to 44 percent. More dated figures show that the numbers were lower in Texas, where 35 percent approved of the president's job performance, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll in February.

Many other administrations have experienced the same sort of slide during the first two years, said U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, who will be at Fort Bliss with the president.

Sophomore slump or not, some Democratic candidates have been critical of Obama.

Bacon said White had criticized Obama for too much federal spending. But White, she said, is focused squarely on state policies, not federal ones.

"The governor's race in 2010 is about the issues facing the future of Texas," she said. "Most Texas voters are less concerned with politics and more concerned with 'Can I pay for my child to go to college?' "

As for Moody, the first-term state legislator might have benefited from Obama's success in 2008, when he defeated Republican Dee Margo. Margo, Moody's opponent again this year, said heavy turnout for Obama carried Moody to victory.

White needs to explain how he would deal with all the attacks on the Texas economy by the Obama administration which is strangling offshore oil production and is pushing the EPA to limit Texas industry and drive up its costs.

It does say something about Obama's lack of popularity that he cannot even draw a crowd of Democrats in El Paso of all places.


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