The relationship between the White House and Senate Democrats hit a new low Tuesday evening after the administration's press office released a transcript of first lady Michelle Obama's appearance in Iowa on behalf of Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley. The problem: The subject line of the e-mail referred to Braley as the "Democratic candidate for governor."
The botch came after the first lady repeatedly referred to the Democratic Senate nominee as "Bruce Bailey" in a campaign appearance earlier this month—and it took an attendee in the crowd to correct her mistake. On Tuesday, she made light of the incident, reminding the audience she messed up his name last time and joking that she sometimes calls Barack Obama "Bo." But the self-inflicted errors continued after her speech with the White House press shop's email. At midnight, two hours after the initial press release, the White House issued a corrected e-mail that reflected his accurate title.
Indicating the sensitivity of the mistake, top Senate Democratic officials wasted no time lashing out at the Obama administration's political team in response, suggesting it was acting like a junior varsity operation two weeks before the midterms. The slipup comes one day after President Obama told Rev. Al Sharpton on his radio show that Senate Democrats keeping their distance from him are still "folks who vote with me. They have supported my agenda in Congress." That alarmed Senate Democrats up for reelection this November, most of whom are working hard to distance themselves from an unpopular president.
"The ineptitude of the White House political operation has sunk from annoying to embarrassing," one senior Senate Democratic aide told National Journal. Another Senate official told the Washington Post that Obama's comments were "not devised with any input from Senate leadership."
Democrats are growing increasingly pessimistic about their chances of holding onto the Senate, with most close races trending in the GOP's direction in a nationalized political environment. Republicans are now in position to net more than the six seats necessary to take the majority. Iowa is emerging as a must-win state for Democrats if they want to halt the Republican momentum, and it's a race where Democrats can't afford late-breaking mistakes. A plugged-in Democratic House official said internal polling showed Braley trailing Republican Joni Ernst in all of the state's congressional districts, even those that typically favor Democrats. Democrats are even struggling to hold Braley's House seat.
President Obama hasn't been invited to campaign in any battleground Senate races, with the exception of Michigan, where Democrats have long held a comfortable lead. Instead, he's spent most of his time headlining fundraisers for the Democratic campaign committees.