U.S. Rep. John Barrow once rode Barack Obama’s long coattails to reelection in 2008, a race and hope-filled political climate that must seem like little more than a dream now for the vulnerable incumbent.
Even in the toxic midterm cycle, when fifty-two fellow Democratic lawmakers lost reelection, Barrow boasted he had worked “hand-in-hand” with the president. But that’s an admission he’s since come to regret, an indication how much this race is different for the Georgia Democrat.
He has carefully kept his distance from the president, fashioning instead a reelection campaign on the promise of independence. He spurned an invitation to his party’s presidential nominating convention and even opened a recent television advertisement by acknowledging “Democrats want to raise taxes.”
Yet in private fundraising appeals to donors, Barrow has been less cool towards the president and his tax-raising compatriots.
The campaign of his Republican challenger, Lee Anderson, ferreted out on Tuesday a recent fundraising appeal the lawmaker sent to donors in which he reaffirmed his support for the president and said his voting record had dovetailed with Democratic leadership 85 percent of the time.
The letter was mailed September 1, before Anderson had officially sewn up his nomination, and bemoaned the influx of outside Republican spending in the race.
“Their first ad, slamming me for my support of President Obama, hit the airwaves last week,” Barrow wrote. “There is some truth to these Republican Party ads. Indeed, I have supported the president and the Democratic leadership, 85% of the time. …
“I proudly stood with the Democratic Party on issues that truly affect people — voting against defunding Planned Parenthood, voting against Paul Ryan’s radical budget proposal,” he continued. “I took tough votes to get our economy moving, supporting the stimulus and raising the debt ceiling.”
Republicans said the letter was “another example of Barrow’s willingness to deceive voters,” pointing to contrary mailers he sent to different groups in his last reelection bid. One mail piece said he worked “hand-in-hand” with the president while another still said he “stood up” to Democratic congressional leadership.
Anderson’s campaign quickly jumped at the opportunity to undermine the talking point most central to Barrow’s reelection: his independence.
“John Barrow has backed Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the liberal establishment at every turn,” Anderson campaign manager Reagan Williams said. “John Barrow isn’t an independent. He’s a big government, big spending, big debt liberal who cares more about saving his political career than telling the truth.”
Past is present.