The House Democratic freshmen who rose to power riding then-candidate Barack Obamas coattails are now eager to strut their independence heading into the midterms.
Some rookies opposed Obamas cap-and-trade climate change bill; others rejected his health care plan. But even those Members who backed all of the presidents signature initiatives are ready to show that they can win their first re-election bids without leaning on Obamas star power.
You have to be an independent, no matter what, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper said. The Pennsylvania Democrat pointed to her vote against the climate change bill, which she said is an economic loser for southwest Pennsylvania, and her fight for abortion funding restrictions in the health care bill as evidence of her independence.
Dahlkemper said that while she would be very happy to welcome Obama to her district, she didnt know how much of a help or a hindrance he would be.
I just think we dont quite know yet where his popularity is, she said.
The best thing I can do is get out and shake hands and look people in the eye, she said. They want to see me and they want to know what Im doing. ... Im much less concerned about whos going to come in and campaign for me.
Rep. Betsy Markey, who voted against the House health care bill but ultimately voted for the final plan, said she didnt think it would make much difference either way if the president stumped in her district.
Its always an honor when the president makes an offer to visit. But this is a Colorado race, the Democrat said.
Nearly all freshman Democrats embraced Obamas broad economic plan as soon as they came to office and that includes last years $787 billion stimulus package that cut taxes and increased spending in an unprecedented effort to blunt the recession. Republicans have been aggressively attacking Democrats for that vote ever since, accusing them of endorsing out-of-control Washington spending while failing to stay focused on jobs and the economy.
In an e-mail sent Friday to the districts of more than a dozen freshman Democrats, National Republican Congressional Committee Communications Director Ken Spain blasted them for running scared from their states unemployment problems and cited the failed trillion-dollar stimulus flop as proof that they are out of touch.
But first-term Democrats may be looking at newly minted Rep. Mark Critz for inspiration. The Pennsylvania Democrat performed better than expected in last weeks special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D) and he did so by running as an independent-minded Democrat who is pro-gun, anti-abortion and against Obamas health care plan.
At the end of the day, each of us is judged by what weve done, Rep. Tom Perriello said.
Obama didnt carry the Virginia Democrats district in 2008, but Perriello has voted for all of the presidents signature issues. He said he is proud to have stood with him on legislation he agreed with and would welcome a joint appearance with the president in his district even though some of his constituents may not be Obamas biggest fans.