Congressional fence-sitters

Members of Congress are familiar with that seat, actually. Especially on a range of social and economic issues.

But RealClearPolitics points
to a group of them who aren’t supporting a presidential candidate yet,
either. They’re worried about their own electability.

Georgia Rep. Jim Marshall, a Democrat and Vietnam
veteran who won his last election by about 1,800 votes, said he admires
both Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., but feels no obligation to
state a preference.

“If it turns out one of them is an ax murderer or something like
that I’ll make a choice,” he joked. Otherwise, “I don’t think I need to
get involved.”

That’s extreme indecision. Or…decisive moderation.

For most of these fence-sitters — at least 14 as of
Wednesday — it boils down to political necessity: They are vulnerable
Democrats in conservative-leaning districts who take pains to avoid
aligning closely with the national party.

McCain has his own issues in his party. Many conservatives opposed
the four-term senator, who has worked with Democrats and strayed from
GOP orthodoxy on some issues, before he sealed the GOP nomination in
February. Many still express reservations about him as the party leader.

This is not new to this year or these candidates, actually.

Over the years, moderates and conservatives have avoided
associating with nominees going back to George McGovern in 1972 and
including John Kerry in 2004. Public endorsements were not an issue in
2004 since Kerry had wrapped up the nomination early.

“They are all scared to death about getting beat by a Republican,”
said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., one of Obama’s most prominent
supporters. “I don’t think that if the good Lord himself had been
nominated as a Democrat that some of those folks would have endorsed
him. They are afraid of looking too much like a Democrat because of the
kind of districts they’re from.”

Desperate times call for desperate analogies. However…

Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, a Democratic House leader
who helped orchestrate the party’s strategy for winning control of
Congress in 2006, argues against reading too much into the holdouts. He
said most of them always stay out of national politics and that the
party is generally unified around Obama.

“They’re just going to stick to their knitting,” he said. “It’s not that they’re anti-Obama.”

At least he didn’t say ‘guns and religion’.


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