Democratic Candidates May Find Obama A Liability
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
In an election year, Labor Day is officially the kickoff of campaign season - officially. In reality, candidates have been focused on this campaign since, well, their last campaign. There is a lot at stake this fall. And for one thing, Democrats are trying to hold their majority in the Senate. And some Democratic candidates have reached a difficult conclusion - their president is a potential liability. President Obama has low approval ratings; he's been hurt in part by criticism from both parties over his handling of the crisis in Iraq and Syria, especially his dealing with Islamic State militants. Joining us now, as she does most Mondays, is Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: So let's remember a moment last week. The president said publicly he had no strategy to deal with the Islamic State - these militants in Iraq and Syria. The criticism over that just kept coming over the weekend.
ROBERTS: Now, the White House of course has been walking back that statement and saying, look, Secretary Kerry has gone to the region. They're trying to put together the various countries in the region to resist ISIS and that that is a strategy. But you are absolutely hearing criticism not only from Republicans, but also Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is chairman of the Intelligence Committee said that the one thing she knows about this president is that he's cautious and maybe in this instance too cautious.
There's also this question of going to Congress about any decision to go further militarily into Syria. And that is something a lot of members of Congress are calling for, saying the president should come to Congress before he does anything further. The problem there is of course that we've seen over and over and over again in this environment this Congress doesn't much agree to anything.
GREENE: You know, you mention not agreeing to anything. That brings up another issue, and that's immigration. I mean, President Obama has been talking about the unwillingness of Congress to act on it. He's been talking about unilaterally dealing with it in some way. Are we about to see that happen?
ROBERTS: Well, maybe - there's an answer. (Laughter) Last Thursday when he had the press conference where he talked about no strategy and that certainly grabbed the headlines, he was eager to take a question on immigration. And there he talked about how Congress has not acted. So the question then is whether he will. He did say Congress might act after the midterms, so that means he might postpone any kind of action.
Look, the Democratic Senate candidates - particularly in Louisiana, North Carolina, Arkansas - saying this would be a disaster for him to act unilaterally and hurt them politically. But I'm not sure that they're making the right political assessment there. You know, people who are going to vote against the Democrats on immigration policy are already going to vote against Democrats. It's obviously very natural for candidates not to want already - an already unpopular president to do something that makes life harder for them. But they might be wrong on this one, unless some very specific thing is going on in their state that has voters riled up.
But everyone talks about immigration being a plus for Democrats in 2016, but I think it could be a plus for them this year, David, because I think it could energize voters, particularly in Colorado. But it might even be a plus in places like Louisiana and North Carolina with changing demographics. It would require organizing the voters to take advantage of it.
GREENE: OK. A bit of analysis on one issue, Cokie - what are you seeing sort of broadly right now, in the few seconds we have left, as we get closer here?
ROBERTS: Well, you know, there's no overriding issue in this campaign, and that's significant all in itself, David, because it means Obamacare is not the issue it was a couple of years ago. And also if you see a reaction to the president if he acts on immigration with Republicans calling for impeachment or shutting down the government, then you could have a whole other set of issues out there. And some Democrats are hoping for those issues. And then there's always the question of money and whether money can make a huge difference in this race. And, you know, we've seen millionaires run and not win, so money's not dispositive, but it's certainly important.
GREENE: All right, Cokie. Always good to talk you. Cokie Roberts joins us most Mondays.
ROBERTS: Thanks, David.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.