Why Obama is taking time to campaign for Rep. Tom Perriello(Read article summary)
Tom Perriello, a freshman Democrat from a Republican district in Virginia who is, no surprise, trailing in the polls, is also something rather unusual this campaign season: an Obama loyalist.
After all, Representative Perrielloâ€™s district leans Republican. He won by only a few hundred votes in the Obama sweep year of 2008. Right now, heâ€™s trailing his GOP challenger, state Sen. Robert Hurt, by anywhere from one to 12 percentage points, according to various polls. Itâ€™s quite likely heâ€™ll lose.
As a general rule, presidents donâ€™t waste their time standing on podiums with one-term lawmakers who are on every prognosticatorâ€™s â€śendangeredâ€ť list, as he's slated to do Friday night.
But this is an unusual year, and Perrielloâ€™s case is itself unusual.
For one thing, Perriello, a Yale-trained attorney and former lawyer for international human rights efforts, is eager for an Obama visit. In a year where some Democrats are boasting that they voted for John McCain in 2008, and others are literally shooting administration bills in their campaign ads, the president perhaps just wants to reward loyalty.
And Perriello has been unapologetic about his support for Obama and White House legislation. He voted for all the big ones â€“ the stimulus, cap-and-trade climate change legislation, and the health-care bill â€“ despite the conservative cast of his district. That has made him a hero to many liberals. It also has not escaped Mr. Obamaâ€™s notice. He mentioned Perriello by name during his appearance on Jon Stewartâ€™s â€śThe Daily Showâ€ť Wednesday.
â€śThere are a whole bunch of Democrats, guys like Tom Perriello in Virginia, ... who are basically in Republican districts,â€ť said Obama. â€śYou know, they won in the big surge that we had in 2008, they knew it was going to be a tough battle, that these are generally pretty conservative districts, and yet still went ahead and did what they thought was right.â€ť
Finally, Perriello is not irretrievably behind. He could still win, particularly if Obamaâ€™s appearance in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, fires up the areaâ€™s young and African-American voters. He is an energetic, able candidate (as is Senator Hurt). He has lots of money (though Hurt has matched him ad for ad).
But Mr. Cook goes on to note that to this point many of Perrielloâ€™s 2008 supporters â€śsimply arenâ€™t engaged,â€ť and that the fundamentals of the race â€śargue for a Hurt win.â€ť