White House officials are preemptively spinning a midterm defeat, and they're using their own fantasies to do it. They're starting to blame candidates for not supporting President Obama enough. As a top White House official told The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty, "He doesn't think they have any reason to run away from him. He thinks there is a strong message there."
This is pure delusion: Obama is the main reason Republicans are well-positioned to win control of the upper chamber next Tuesday. And Democrats' biggest strategic mistake in this election is that most candidates didn't run away far and fast enough. Given the president's rock-bottom approval numbers in the many Republican-friendly Senate states that Democrats needed to win—as well as the reality of a worsening political environment for the party as early as last winter—that distance was a downright necessity. But a host of Senate candidates failed to create it, and the party is likely to pay the price in Senate seats.
Some candidates bought the White House's view that the president's problems were temporary, or only a problem in the most conservative of states. Others naively thought they could pivot away from the president's problems in hope of individualizing the races and focusing on their challengers' vulnerabilities. Several understood that moving to the center could risk alienating a base that they needed to turn out, given the party's much-vaunted Bannock Street ground game. But as the candidates win only weak support from outside the most committed Democrats, those assumptions deserve to be reevaluated. Now, more than ever, it's clear that individual Democrats could use some clear brand separation from President Obama.