Rep. James Clyburn Calls on Obama to Step Up for Dems in the Midterms

The Democratic leader would like the president to use some of his 2008 and 2012 magic to help the party in 2014.

Posted: 03/31/2014 01:03 PM EDT

When pundits look into their political crystal balls for clues about how Democrats might fare in this year's midterm elections, the future looks cloudy.

Their ability to hold the majority in the U.S. Senate is uncertain and the conventional wisdom is that they won't be able to win the 17 seats needed to run the House. A GOP takeover of both chambers of Congress would bring a halt to President Obama's agenda and render Capitol Hill Democrats moot if not mute.

In a Monday appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn, the House's third-top Democrat, called on President Obama to send his party a lifeline.

Obama has participated in several fundraising events in recent months and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has so far raised a record $89 million for the midterm cycle. But during his two presidential campaigns, he set the gold standard for how to run the game on the ground, and the value of sharing the data and techniques he employed with vulnerable candidates could be priceless.

"I think the organization will be key," Clyburn said, adding that raising money's not an issue. "And if we can get the White House to come in, or at least the president's political operations, to help us at the state and local levels the way they did in Ohio and Florida, the mechanisms they put in place were just great."

In a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon, Democratic National Committee communications director Mo Elleithee said that the president and his White House team have pledged to help the party and candidates across the nation "however they can in whatever way makes most sense." Obama's personal involvement, he said, will vary from state to state and district to district.

That's in part because some Democrats are feeling a little squishy about sharing a stage with Obama, whose poll numbers have dwindled thanks to the public's ongoing skepticism about the Affordable Care Act. But according to political analyst David Bositis, the president is cool with that.

"He has said he's willing to play any role that anybody wants him to play. He can be the guy they attack or he can help raise money and support them in other ways," Bositis told BET.com.

Elleithee also said that the president's political operation has provided the DNC its volunteer and voter data, which will be shared with other national Democratic committees and candidates, which will be particularly helpful in a traditionally low turnout year.

Bositis believes the information will be used very carefully and strategically and only in states where they believe it will truly be effective not just for federal candidates, but state legislators as well.

Orlando Watson, the Republican National Committee's communications director for Black media, saw Clyburn's comments as an opportunity to draw a contrast between the two parties' approach to voter outreach.

“While Rep. Clyburn shed light on the absence of a Democratic ground game in key states, the Republican Party continues to invest in and build a grassroots infrastructure in diverse communities the Democrats continue to take for granted," Watson told BET.com.

Bositis thinks that Republicans tend to forget that the Democratic Party is already far more diverse than the GOP, even if it, too, could do better. More important, African-Americans, who make up 40 percent of the party, have a strong voice and can help candidates win key elections.

"Ever since 1988 when Jesse Jackson Sr. ran, the Democrats' nominee for president has been the person who Black people picked: Bill Clinton twice, Al Gore, John Kerry and Obama," he said. "Obama wasn't who the white people picked. [They] wanted Hillary Clinton."

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(Photo: Morning Joe via MSNBC)

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