Obamafication: Will White House Try to Nationalize House Races in 2012?
Over at First Read, they are reporting that the Obama campaign is going to “attempt to at least experiment with organizing” in Arizona, Georgia and Texas. While, in theory, I could conceive of how Arizona or Georgia might end up coming into play in a relatively close 2012 election, I agree with Jon Chait, there just isn’t any scenario where Texas is a decisive swing state.
It’s not impossible for Obama to win Texas. It is impossible that Texas could make the difference between winning and losing the electoral college. The only scenarios where Obama wins Texas — rapidly accelerating growth plus a disastrous Republican nominee, like Sarah Palin — are scenarios where he’s win easily without Texas.
If the Obama campaign actually ends up spending real money in Texas, it would be a strong sign that they are thinking of trying for an “Obamafication” of the entire Democratic Party in the 2012. Embracing a strategy of making many of the House and Senate elections around the country a referendum on Obama, as well.
This strategy might make sense for the House
Congressional elections often tend to be referendums on the president, anyway, and the 2010 election saw this correlation increase. Incumbency was less of a benefit in 2010 than it used to be. Similarly, the strategy of maintaining an image as a parochially focused Representative, independent from the national party, which worked for many old bulls for decades, was not able to save many of them last year. The huge GOP wave basically washed out most of the Democrats in conservative House districts that would normally have objected to a push to nationalize the election, and left many districts where Obama will win the popular vote in Republican hands.
The Obama campaign also likely believes they are going to be the easiest Democratic political organization for which to raise money this cycle. It is probably true that it will be easier to convince people to give to the Obama re-election campaign than to the DSCC or DCCC. So, the Obama campaign paying for “Obama” field offices in a swing Texas district could be the best way to get money to funnel for increasing Democratic turnout.
The strategy might make even more sense for the Obama
Even if the Obamafication of many House races doesn’t turn out to be the absolute optimal political strategy for getting the most new Democrats elected to the House, it has the added benefit of being a great strategy for increasing Obama’s power over the Democratic caucus as a whole. Making many potential new House Democrats dependent on direct help from the Obama campaign, and having the success of the entire caucus more closely tied to his own success, will make members far less willing to buck the administration.
I see how much the Obama campaign actually spends in Texas both as a barometer for how confident they are in winning re-election, so they can afford to waste money on helping the rest of the party, and as an indicator of how good an idea they think it is to make many down-ballot elections all about Obama, as well.