President Barack Obama's first Long Island fundraising trip, set for Thursday, comes during the autumn of his incumbency and the sunset of his usefulness to local party candidates. But Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs, who pushed for the appearance, talks up the event as a plus.
Democrats seeking election or re-election to Congress, such as Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice and Rep. Tim Bishop, have been expected to stay away from the Garden City fete from the day it was first announced last month.
Obama's bad poll numbers tell why. In the 4th District -- where the event is scheduled and where Rice and Republican Bruce Blakeman are vying to succeed the retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) -- a Newsday/News12/Siena College poll last month showed a 42 percent favorable rating for the second-term president and 54 percent unfavorable.
Earlier, Siena pollsters also found in the 1st District, where Bishop of Southampton squares off against state Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), that Obama's unfavorable-to-favorable was a similar 55-41.
The funds raised benefit the Democratic National Committee. "This is a DNC event," Jacobs said Friday, "not an event to rally for the congressionals. I wouldn't have the expectation of them coming. My sense is if you make it into Congress, you'll have plenty of opportunities to meet the president."
As for timing, Jacobs -- whose relations with Rice are cool anyway -- added: "I'm sure the president is going to talk about the Congress and the House seats. We raise money for national campaigns. It will go where it is deemed most important and targeted in the most efficient manner."
Much has been made lately of how Democrats in November's midterm House and Senate races are keeping a distance from the White House. In Kentucky, Senate GOP minority leader Mitch McConnell has said his race is "about Barack Obama's agenda." His Democratic challenger, Alison Grimes, even made a commercial distancing herself from Obama on guns, coal, and environmental regulations.
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