Back to the future: Desperate Democrats turn to Obama for election rescue

Back to the future: Desperate Democrats turn to Obama for election rescue

Democrats are pouring in cash, making last-minute messaging pivots and deploying high-profile guests on the stump in races where Republicans suddenly pose bigger threats right before Election Day.

It’s more evidence of a growing Republican wave.

Tightening polls have sent Democrats scrambling, even into deep-blue New England, to increase voter turnout among their tepid base.

They are pulling out their most potent weapons, including former President Barack Obama, who plans to campaign for newly vulnerable Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin and Nevada, where polls show Republican candidates surging in Senate and gubernatorial races.

Mr. Obama will hit the campaign trail in Pennsylvania with President Biden next week on behalf of Democrat John Fetterman, who has lost most of his lead over Republican Mehmet Oz in the race for an open Senate seat. Mr. Oz gained on Mr. Fetterman in recent weeks amid questions about Mr. Fetterman’s health. The Democrat suffered a near-fatal stroke in May, and his speech and mental acuity were noticeably impaired during a debate performance Tuesday.  

The Senate race is considered a toss-up.

“Right now, it’s blocking and tackling,” Pennsylvania Democratic strategist Mike Mikus said. “Democrats need to do everything they can to make sure Democratic voters are turning out.”

Democrats, Mr. Mikus said, “are nervous, but they are always nervous.”

In New England, where Republicans are posing a rare challenge to House and Senate candidates, first lady Jill Biden has been deployed. She will campaign in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, this weekend for Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who is suddenly threatened by a surge in polls by Republican challenger Donald Bolduc. Mrs. Biden also will campaign for Rep. Chris Pappas. Polls show he is tied with Republican challenger Karoline Leavitt.

Democratic Party operatives watching their chances dim in key races are deploying new messaging in a late effort to sound tough on crime, which has become a top voter concern. 

Shield PAC, a political action committee that supports moderate Democrats, launched an ad this week defending Rep. Elaine Luria, a Democrat in a dead heat against Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans in a district in Virginia’s Hampton Roads area. The ad promotes Ms. Luria’s support of law enforcement and “leadership on fighting crime.”

Moderate House Democrats have warned party leaders over the past two years that support among the far left for defunding the police is hurting their chances to hold on to seats in swing districts.

Now that Republicans are on the verge of retaking the majority, in part by attacking Democrats as anti-police, even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears to be worried.

She sent a message Wednesday calling on rank-and-file Democrats on the campaign trail “to convey the importance of emphasizing Democrats’ unyielding commitment to public safety.”

The top legislation Mrs. Pelosi highlighted in the memo was the massive COVID-19 aid package and last year’s government spending bill, which included money for law enforcement, or funding the police. 

Democrats’ image problem on crime is seeping into the suburbs and hurting their credibility with a critical voting bloc. 

“A lot of this crime increase we’re seeing are in suburban areas, and those are the voters that gave Democrats back the House and the Senate, and Biden the presidency,” said Jessica Taylor, an analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “You moved out to the suburbs to feel safer, and if there’s crime increasing or following you, you might reevaluate certain things.”

Democrats are pulling out all the stops in Pennsylvania to rescue the flagging Fetterman campaign.

In addition to plans to campaign with Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden is scheduled to make a rare joint appearance Friday with Vice President Kamala Harris at a reception for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. He will make get-out-the-vote stops with Mr. Obama the following weekend in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, according to Axios. 

Mr. Biden also is set to hold a rally Tuesday in Florida, where Democrats are trailing Republicans in the Senate and governor’s races. 

“Last-minute visits from Biden are risky in swing states given his low ratings, but Democrats will do it when they feel their base needs shoring up,” polling analyst Ron Faucheux said. “Obama’s ratings are better, so he can be used in more places.”

Mr. Obama will make a campaign appearance in Nevada on Tuesday to support Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat who is slightly trailing Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, and Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat in a dead heat with Republican challenger Joe Lombardo. Mr. Obama will hold a campaign rally in Wisconsin next week with Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes. Polls show he is slipping further behind Republican incumbent Ron Johnson.

This weekend, Mr. Obama will travel to Michigan for Gretchen Whitmer, whose lead over Republican Tudor Dixon has shrunk significantly in the past two weeks. 

Republican strategist Fred Wszolek called Mr. Obama’s appearance a “desperate” move and said Democrats have few Michigan voters left to win over in the governor’s race.

“It’s all about mobilization,” Mr. Wszolek said. “They need to put all of their energies there, but there’s no persuasion left to be done.”