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President Obama can't save embattled Democratic incumbents

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Posted: Saturday, May 22, 2010 12:00 am

Shortly after I moved from Lodi to Pittsburgh in the summer of 2008, I came to an alarming realization: Arlen Specter represents me in the U.S. Senate!

I was speechless at the thought that I had gone from bad — Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer — to worse. Specter at the time was a RINO Republican.

Specter has been in Congress for 30 years and in politics for 45 years. Now 80, working in the public sector representing Pennsylvania is probably the only job Specter could qualify for.

But on Tuesday, voters rejected the newly minted Democrat in favor of his challenger, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak. Specter's defeat sends more ominous signals to the Obama administration and incumbents throughout the nation.

When Specter last year changed his party affiliation to Democrat, Obama said: "He will have my full support …" But apparently the president's commitment didn't go deeply enough to show up for an 11th-hour Pennsylvania appearance for Specter, increasingly and correctly viewed by insiders as unlikely to win.

Instead, Obama made automated phone calls. Specter's campaign tried to persuade Obama as late as last week to stump with him. But it couldn't make a convincing argument.

In the end, Obama considered Specter as too risky to waste his diminished political capital on.

Once considered an asset for most Democratic candidates, Obama's personal involvement is no longer guaranteed.

In high profile campaigns like Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey, Obama's intervention has failed to get out the vote.

Last February, the president's last-minute visit to Boston did little to influence Massachusetts voters casting their votes for the doomed Democrat Martha Coakley. Turnout in the Bay State's heavily minority precincts was weak. Obama could not even persuade African-Americans to support Coakley in the special election to fill deceased Sen.Ted Kennedy's seat.

In November 2009, Obama failed to create a buzz for either the New Jersey or Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

With angry voters channeling their discontent toward Washington, Obama doesn't command as much power over the electorate or strike as much fear in the hearts of his own party as he did only a few months ago.

Although the mainstream media insists that the long string of defeated incumbents and White House-backed candidates means nothing and that Obama's popularity is undiminished, ample evidence to the contrary exists.

On Wednesday, the Rasmussen Report's daily Presidential Tracking Poll showed that only 25 percent of the nation's voters strongly approve of Obama's presidency while 44 percent strongly disapprove. Obama's Presidential Approval Index rating of minus 19 is his lowest since the passage of his health care proposal two months ago.

Why Obama is unpopular and may be headed for a one-term presidency is not hard to understand. Except for health care reform, which needed a ham-fisted Congressional maneuvering strategy called reconciliation to override the people's will, Obama has not delivered on any of his campaign pledges.

Obama's administration has not produced "change we can believe in," his promised 3 million new jobs have not been created, and he seems to live overseas where he embarrasses the nation with his anti-American statements.

Earlier this week, during Mexican president Felipe Calderon's White House visit, Obama again slammed Arizona's SB 1070 by calling it "misdirected," even though two of his prominent cabinet members, Attorney General Eric Hold and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, admit they haven't read the law. Chances are, neither has Obama.

Finally, Obama insists that he will push for comprehensive immigration reform despite the reality that neither Americans nor Congress has any appetite for it.

Voters will have to send Obama a clear message in November's mid-term elections. Possibly if the Republican regain control of Congress, Obama will be reined in. But I doubt it.

I give Obama credit for having achieved one remarkable feat. He's made George W. Bush look good.

Joe Guzzardi, a registered Independent disgusted with 99 percent of American politicians, can be reached at

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