Ever had a date you didn’t want to introduce to your mother?
Bill White knows how you felt. The Democratic nominee for governor will campaign today in Midland, Abilene and Alvarado. Where he won’t be is in Austin and Dallas, where President Barack Obama, the leader of White’s political party, will be holding two fundraisers and giving a speech on higher education — and, it turns out, meeting briefly with White’s opponent, Republican Gov. Rick Perry, to talk about border issues.
“I think he [White] pays a price,” says Todd Olsen, a Republican consultant who worked on George W. Bush’s state and national campaigns. “If you just say, ‘I’m going to go to it,’ you get it over with. There’s not three days of discussion about it, and you don’t [run] away from your party’s principles.” On the other hand, he notes, “the president’s job disapproval rating really is something to run away from.”
Obama is still popular with hard-line Democrats, but the presumption is that they’ll be voting for White over Perry anyway. White needs to win conservative Democrats and independents to overtake the incumbent, and Obama is really, really unpopular with those voters. He lost the state to John McCain in 2008 by more than 11 points, and that might have been his high-water mark. In a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll in May, 58 percent of Texans disapproved of the way the president was doing his job. And the strength of their wrath was measurable: 50 percent strongly disapproved, while only 19 percent strongly approved.
No wonder many Democrats are finding their schedules too full to make it to Obama’s events. Perry and other Republicans, meanwhile, are whooping it up. Perry will grab a few minutes with the president when he arrives in Austin. And Bill Flores, the Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, jeeringly offered to pay for a town hall featuring the two Democrats, just to get them on stage together. But Edwards won’t be there, and neither will White.