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Democratic Dunkirk?

Democrats try to escape Obama, Pelosi, and Reid.

5:00 PM, Sep 8, 2010 • By FRED BARNES
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We are now seeing the beginning of the political equivalent of the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. This time, it’s not British troops escaping Nazi German forces.  It’s Democrats evacuating Obamaland, desperate to avoid identification with President Obama with their re-election (or election) on November 2 in doubt.

Democratic Dunkirk?

Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not much.  There is indeed a growing exodus of Democrats from Obama and also from their congressional leaders, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.  And it’s striking for several reasons.

For one thing, the evacuees want their constituents to know they’ve bailed out.  They think it will help their campaigns and perhaps it will.  At least five House Democrats are highlighting their votes against Obama’s health care plan.  And you can expect more Democrats to join this parade.  Politico couldn’t find even one Democrat who’s aired a TV ad that brags about supporting Obamacare.

Another noteworthy aspect: Democrats in tight races are staying away when Obama visits their state or praying he won’t come. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was absent from the president’s appearance on Labor Day in Milwaukee.  Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White didn’t show up for an Obama speech in Texas.  In Cleveland on Wednesday, however, a number of top Democrats appeared with Obama, including Governor Ted Strickland and Senate candidate Lee Fischer.

Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado is a special case.  He won the primary last month with fundraising assistance by Obama and strong national party support.  But he now says he can’t decide whether to have the president campaign for him – which is a not-so-subtle way of saying “please, stay away.”

That’s not all.  Soon after Obama proposed a $50 billion infrastructure spending proposal this week, Bennet went out of his way to express opposition. “I will not support additional spending in a second stimulus package,” he said in a statement.

Other embattled Democrats have made a point of being non-committal on the plan or simply avoided saying anything about it at all.  Those declining to back the plan include Representative Harry Mitchell of Arizona and Julie Lassa, who’s running for an open House seat, of Wisconsin.

Still another aspect of the retreat from Obama is that it’s not only the handful of conservative Democrats in the House who are involved.  Moderates and liberals in tough election battles (Senators Feingold and Bennet, for example) are increasingly eager to disassociate themselves from Obama, Pelosi, and their policies.  But a close race doesn’t explain the sudden defection of Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon from Obamacare, which he voted for.  Wyden is well ahead in his bid for re-election.

Meanwhile, Representative Joe Donnelly of Indiana has a campaign ad that says he “voted against Nancy Pelosi’s energy tax on Hoosier families.”  Representative Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania is broadcasting a TV spot boasting he’s “not afraid to stand up to the president and Nancy Pelosi.”  The Daily Caller labels Donnelly, Altmire, and others as “politically vulnerable Democrats suddenly expressing their opposition to their party’s leadership in Washington.”

One more thing.  It’s early September.  It’s surprising that defections have begun this soon.   If more follow, we’ll be seeing a full-blown Democratic Dunkirk. 

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