When his name has been on the ballot, Barack Obama has played a noticeable role in helping elect Senate Democrats. In both 2008 and 2012, he provided particular coattail pull In the northern half of the country — where Obama ran well in many states but where the prospects of Democratic statewide candidates were often more problematic. In 2008, Obama drew a higher share of the vote than five of 20 Democratic Senate winners in their home states, as the party pushed its number toward a “supermajority” of 60. In 2012, Obama outpaced six of 23 Democratic Senate victors, plus one of two independents who currently caucus with the Democrats, as the party successfully clutched to what had become a slim Senate majority. Next year the Democrat–heavy Senate class of 2008 faces the voters again, without Obama on the ballot.

Source: Rhodes–Cook Letter, Dec. 2013

How to: This map indicates the states in which Barack Obama garnered a greater percentage of votes than the Democratic senate candidates also on the ballot. While users of Voting — Elections Collection can view and download the percentage of votes won by a presidential or senatorial candidate, the product also allows for fairly easy comparison at the county level for each candidate. Simply use the “Download Data” button at the top of the screen to download senate and presidential elections at the county level for a particular year. Once downloaded some simple copy and pasting will allow a user to see side–by–side results for a Democratic senate candidate and a Democratic presidential candidate.

For more information on the coattail phenomenon check out the following article: “Coattails”.

Document Outline
Obama and the Democrats

Obama and the Democrats

As vote–getters go, Barack Obama is in a class by himself. He won a 53% popular vote presidential victory in 2008 followed by a 51% win in 2012. In the process, he became only the third Democrat in history to win at least two terms in the White House with a majority of the popular vote. And he is the first since Franklin D. Roosevelt.

On the other hand, Obama’s fellow Democrats have taken their lumps. From the start of his first term to the beginning of his second, the Democrats have lost four Senate seats, 10 governorships and 56 House seats. The latter is the largest loss by the president’s party during any first term in more than a half century.

But the huge losses were concentrated in the midterm election of 2010. When Obama himself has been on the ballot and his campaign organization has been activated, his Democratic ticket—mates have benefited. The question now is whether the Democrats have learned anything from their last midterm debacle that would make their chances in 2014 more favorable.

The atmospherics at this point are not that good for the president’s party. The economy still putters along with an unemployment rate around 7%. Obama’s presidential approval rating has tumbled to the low–40% range, well below the 50% rating often needed for a president to have a positive impact on his party’s candidates.

And the president’s prime legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), has been implemented so poorly that it threatens to undermine Democratic candidates in 2014 as effectively as it did in 2010 after its controversial passage.

But Republicans are hardly sitting on easy street. The GOP has been tarred in this era of partisanship and polarization as obstructionists and the “party of no.” Congressional Republican support this fall for the shutdown of the federal government added to the perception of a brand in tatters.

And to the Democrats’ advantage, there are signs that voters are not as testy as they were in 2010. Then, the year opened with the Republicans’ Massachusetts “miracle,” Scott Brown’s upset win in a special Senate election for the seat last won by liberal Democratic icon, Edward Kennedy.

This cycle, the Democrats already have a special Senate election victory in Massachusetts under their belt, plus another in New Jersey. And last month they picked up the governorship in the bright purple state of Virginia, marking the first time that a candidate of the president’s party has captured a gubernatorial election in the Old Dominion in 40 years.

Democrat Terry McAuliffe basically won by reassembling the Obama coalition in the state from 2012. The president triumphed in Virginia last year by 4 percentage points; McAuliffe won last month by 3 points.

Document Citation
Cook, R. (2013). Obama's coattails: The Senate.
Document ID: rcookltr-1527-91591-2604950
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