President Obama delivers remarks on jobs at Fire Station 9 in North Chesterfield,… (Jason Reed / Reuters )
Reporting from North Chesterfield, Va. — President Obama soaked up a fair amount of love on his bus tour through swing-state country. What was unusual about the trip, though, was the dearth of Democratic elected officials at his Virginia events.
Indeed, the most prominent official who turned out for one of Obama’s appearances was the state’s Republican governor,Bob McDonnell.
McDonnell showed up at Obama’s appearance at an air base inHampton on Wednesday morning.
“Finally, I want to acknowledge your governor, Bob McDonnell, and his lovely wife, Maureen, for joining us here today,’’ the president said.
Tim Kaine would have been an obvious wing man for Obama. But the former Virginia governor and ex- Democratic National Committee chief is tending to his own political interests. He is running for a Senate seat and scheduling conflicts kept him far off in northern Virginia as Obama's bus trundled along rural southern roads.
A joint appearance with Obama is a risky proposition for some Democratic candidates. Obama won the state in 2008 – the first Democrat to do so since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. But his approval rating has since sagged.
The state House minority leader, Ward Armstrong, went so far as to appear in a campaign ad proclaiming his independence from Obama. In the spot, Armstrong says his Republican opponent has been “comparing me to Barack Obama.’’
“That’s a stretch …’’ Armstrong said. “I’m pro-life, pro gun and I always put Virginia first.’’
At the last event of Obama’s three-day trip -- a speech at a local fire house -- the highest ranking Democrat in the crowd was state delegate Jennifer McClellan.
The delegate who represents the area is Democrat Betsy Carr, who was a no-show. In an interview, Carr said she wasn’t avoiding Obama. When the president was in town, she said, she was on her couch with an icepack pressed to her shoulder.
“I lifted some heavy stuff,’’ she said. “I wanted to be seen with the president, and I don’t know anyone in my district who doesn’t want to be with the president. … I’m looking forward to being able to welcome him the next time.’’