President Obama will make a campaign swing into the battleground state of Virginia this weekend, on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.
McAuliffe has been consistently ahead in the polls and his chances of winning look reasonably good—as do those of other Virginia Democrats in high-profile races. The Virginia Democrats have two advantages: Republican foes who have gone to extremes on social issues and a broad revulsion in a state with high levels of federal employment at Republican tactics during the government shutdown.
So Obama’s trip to Virginia comes with few risks.
The thing is that, at this point in his tenure, Obama could afford to take some political risks.
For instance, he could travel to the other state that is holding a gubernatorial election this fall: New Jersey.
Though New Jersey is a more reliably Democratic state than Virginia by most measures, it has a Republican governor who leads in the polls. Though Chris Christie is actually very conservative, he has done a better job than his Virginia counterparts of positioning himself as a relative moderate. And a big boost for that strategy has come from Christie’s association with President Obama, who worked with Christie closely after Superstorm Sandy hit the state last year—and who so far has steered clear of any significant role in this year’s gubernatorial contest.
It is good that Obama and Christie worked well together following a natural disaster.
He has fundamental differences with Obama and the Democrats, and those differences will come into stark relief if Christie is re-elected, as the Republican will immediately begin positioning as a contender for his party’s 2016 presidential nomination.
To elbow his way into GOP contention, however, Christie must win big in New Jersey next Tuesday. So the governor is running an expensive and aggressive re-election campaign, with plenty of help from the Republican National Committee and the Republican Governors Association.