Sept. 30, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Going Where He's Wanted: Obama Boosts Some Vulnerable Democrats in Tight Primaries

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Hank Johnson , D-Ga., testifies during a House Budget Committee hearing on budget issues for the 2015 fiscal year on March 25.

With his popularity in decline, many of this cycle’s most vulnerable Democrats avoid association with President Barack Obama.

But a small group of select incumbents are embracing the second-term president, seeking and touting his support on the trail as a badge of honor.

So far, Obama has endorsed six Democratic incumbents who face serious primary challenges this cycle. Each member hails from a strong Democratic district, many of which have large minority populations that overwhelmingly support the president.

“My constituents love and support the president by about 95 percent, and so he’s quite popular, and it’s always helpful to have the president’s endorsement in my district,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., who faces the toughest primary of his career this year from a well-liked sheriff in his black-majority district.

Obama has endorsed Johnson, along with Reps. Michael M. Honda of California, Eric Swalwell of California, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii. Rep. Marc Veasey of Texas received Obama’s endorsement earlier this year, before he defeated a deep-pocketed attorney in the primary.

Democratic operatives said these endorsements will translate into some much-needed goodwill on Capitol Hill for the president. Obama has struggled with his relationship with Congress since the start of his presidency.

“Where’s the upside in not endorsing?” one longtime Democratic fundraiser asked. “If [Obama] has any major initiatives that can get done in the next two-and-a-half years, he’s going to need every Democrat in the House. Especially if they are going to try and do a deal on immigration, or try and do a deal on transportation funding or the minimum wage.”

Veasey, whose Obama endorsement came just days before the primary and earned considerable amount of local and national press, credited the president’s support as a factor in his win. His opponent, Tom Sanchez, spent more than $1 million to try and defeat Veasey.

“In Texas, we really didn’t have any statewide primaries like the Republicans did to drive the enthusiasm. There weren’t any highly contested races, so it was really the congressional race and a couple of local races driving turnout,” Veasey said in an interview with CQ Roll Call. “Obama’s endorsement added an extra layer of enthusiasm, and I think that that would be helpful to Democrats throughout the entire fall, especially in areas like mine.”

Honda, who received Obama’s endorsement last summer, hopes for similar results.

The seven-term Democrat faces the toughest re-election fight of his career against attorney Ro Khanna. Khanna’s campaign is staffed with a number of former Obama campaign employees, and he already has nearly $2 million in the bank.

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