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The Obama Paradox for House Democrats

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
On the surface, vulnerable Democrats in conservative districts will likely be aided by Obamaís absence from the ballot in 2014. But in some districts, Democrats will miss the presidentís campaign organization and robust turnout operation.

House Democrats face a conundrum in 2014: They canít run with the president, but they donít want to run without his campaign organization either.

On the surface, vulnerable Democrats in conservative districts will likely be aided by President Barack Obamaís absence from the ballot in 2014. But in some districts, Democrats will miss the presidentís campaign organization and robust turnout operation.

ďThe reality is that there are a handful of districts around the country where the presidentís campaign was a hindrance rather than a help, and in those particular races the Democratic candidate will be far better off not having the president on the ballot at the same time in 2014,Ē said David Heller, a consultant who advises several Democrats in competitive districts.

Amid the presidentís testy visit with congressional Democrats Wednesday, the caucusís political challenges remained clear. House Democrats must pick up 17 seats to win the majority ó a tough climb in a year thatís expected to yield only a couple of dozen competitive races.

Thatís because both parties are looking at a smaller House playing field in 2014. House Democrats must defend nine districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012, while House Republicans must defend 17 districts that Obama carried that year.

Whatís more, this cycle marks the first time most House Democrats will run in new districts, making turnout even more unpredictable.

With that in mind, CQ Roll Call has assembled a list of which House Democrats might be affected ó for better or worse ó by the presidentís absence from the ballot.

Georgiaís 12th District

Democratic Rep. John Barrow has survived the GOPís target list ó and Democratic presidential tickets ó many times before. His district voted for GOP presidential candidates for three consecutive presidential cycles, but Barrow has still pulled off victories, often by large margins.

Still, thereís reason to believe next year could be more difficult for Barrow. Obamaís absence from the ballot could depress much of the districtís black population, which makes up at least a third of the districtís voting population, according to one Democratic source.

Illinoisí 10th and 12th Districts

These Democrat-held districts could be battlegrounds again next year, thanks in part to their hometown presidentís absence from the ballot. In 2012, Democrats picked up four seats in Illinois as the partyís base came out in droves. (House Democrats are also helped by a new, favorable congressional map drawn by state lawmakers.)

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