>Eons ago, if you can remember back before the Gulf oil well was capped, before Apple admitted flaws in its iPhone 4, Robert Gibbs shocked the world by admitting the obvious: there are enough seats in play that Democrats could lose the House. At Washington's warp speed, that comment morphed into a new conventional wisdom: Democrats will lose the House, and maybe the Senate too. Which led to a couple of questions: Can the White House turn around political perceptions as well as electoral reality? And how have past presidents successfully intervened to limit their midterm defeats? (The average loss during a president's first term is 16 House seats.) I surveyed several veteran operatives -- many of them former White House aides -- to find out.
All agreed that helping candidates raise money is job one for any president. "Nobody can match a sitting president's ability to get people to give ... and I'm surprised the Obama people haven't done more of it," said one former Democratic White House official, noting the financial advantage some key Republican congressional challengers have amassed.
But strategists disagreed about whether presidential fundraising should involve side-by-side campaigning with candidates. Two former White House advisers, one from each party, said a president should not go to states where he is markedly unpopular and risk tarring his party's candidate with a damaged brand. One also noted the get-out-the-vote resources that get diverted away from election day activities and toward building a presidential-sized crowd.