Senator Mark Udall is not having a good week. The DORA investigation is gaining new steam, his son made headlines for the exact wrong reasons and CNN helped him give his political opponents a late Christmas present.
If you missed it, a CNN reporter interviewed Udall during its coverage of the State of the Union address. At the end of the interview, the CNN reporter asked Udall if the President would be joining him while campaigning in Colorado.
Senator Udall avoided answering the question directly, but the CNN reporter persisted. In fact, she asked the question point blank three more times, all with Udall avoiding a direct answer.
The video quickly went viral, much to the delight of Udall’s Republican opponents.
The not surprising element of the interview is that Udall wanted to avoid committing to campaigning with President Obama who is considerably less popular in Colorado than he was in 2012. As he stated, Senator Udall wants to run on his record, not the President’s. That’s a fine sentiment, but voters and certainly his GOP opponents are not necessarily going to let that happen.
I personally give credit to Udall for doing his best to remain honest about the question. It would have been easier to say that he hopes to campaign with President Obama if he has the time and then simply never follow up with the President’s scheduler.
While that may have been a dishonest way to handle it, it could’ve also dug him a separate hole, tying him to Obama in a different way.
But the bigger issue is how Democrats running for re-election across the country are dealing with a President who after years of being a campaign asset is now a considerable handicap. This is not uncommon during the second term of any presidency. In 2006, George W. Bush was essentially radioactive for GOP candidates.
But the discomfort Senator Udall showed in answering the question shows that this is a new and sensitive topic for Democrats. If Obama was utterly lethal on the campaign trail, then Udall might have had a better answer. If Obama was a great asset, the question would probably have not been asked.
But Udall’s answer tells me that the President is still in the middle area. On one hand, any campaign appearances would turn into instant negative campaign ads for GOP backers. But on the other hand, President Obama is still a significant ally in raising campaign money from Democratic funders.
Senator Udall cannot cut all ties with the President because if the Affordable Care Act gets back on track, he could be a considerable asset on the campaign trail. But Udall also cannot tie himself to the President because if the ACA continues to be a problem, Udall will spend the entire campaign defending someone else’s record.
So to put it mildly, Senator Mark Udall finds himself between a rock and hard place. If you wonder what that may look like, just take a look at the video and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
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– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.