Will Obama Leave the Democratic Party Better Than He Found It?

by Nathan L. Gonzales October 27, 2014 · 9:00 AM EDT

Barack Obama was elected on a swell of energy and enthusiasm, but he might leave the Democratic Party worse off than when he took office.

The disconnect between the Obama political operation and Democratic strategists focused on Congress is nothing new. Congressional Democrats have always been a bit skeptical of the Obama White House, which has looked out for No. 1 and no one else. And now that Republicans continue their midterm march into democratic territory, the blame game has begun in earnest.

“The ineptitude of the White House political operation has sunk from annoying to embarrassing,” one senior Senate Democratic aide told Josh Kraushaar in a recent National Journal article, in wake of more seemingly unhelpful comments from the president about the midterms and the handling of Senate campaign appearances for Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley.

Obama’s popularity has never been easily transferable to down-ballot candidates, but congressional Democrats are now dealing with the president’s unpopularity, which apparently is contagious.

If you take a step back, it’s remarkable how far the Democratic Party has (and has not) come in the past six years.

When Obama became the Democratic presidential nominee in late August 2008, his party held 236 seats in the House, 51 seats in the Senate, and 28 governorships. In the 2008 elections, Obama won the White House, and Democrats grew to 257 House seats, 59 Senate seats (including independents) and 29 governorships.

After these midterm elections, Democrats could hold roughly 195 House seats, 48 Senate seats and no more than half of the governorships.

After a historic presidential candidacy, unprecedented fundraising and a vaunted get-out-the-vote operation, it’s very possible that the Democratic Party will fall below below the levels it was at before Obama took office.

Obama still has two more years to boost Democrats’ standing. But if the last two years are any guide, congressional Democrats shouldn’t count on much help from the leader of their party.