The fates of Obama and Romney in November are likely to impact more than the
"There's obviously a down-ballot impact from the performance of the top of the ticket," said Sen. John
"One of the reasons our Senate numbers have gone up in the last few weeks is distaste for Romney," Schumer said last week.
The impact and potential of coattails is less clear in the House, though both parties are using the stances of Obama and Romney as political cudgels, evidence that the presidential race is having at least a tangential effect.
Romney's struggle to overcome his remarks at a meeting with donors offered an early demonstration of how the top of the ticket can quickly shake other races.
His comment, secretly recorded at a Florida fundraiser in May, that 47 percent of Americans think they are "victims" entitled to government help and that he doesn't worry about "those people," sent Republican Senate candidates scrambling. In Massachusetts, Connecticut, Nevada and Hawaii, Republicans respectfully but surely disavowed Romney's remarks.
There are, after all, a lot of Republicans in that 47 percent - seniors, for example, who depend on government programs like
Are they the moochers Romney described? The very question opened up a round of sniping that reached from vulnerable Republican Senate candidates all the way to Romney's wife, Ann.
"I disagree with Governor Romney's insinuation," GOP Senate candidate
"That's not the way I view the world," said GOP Sen.
In Wisconsin, GOP Senate candidate
"You know, whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, if your standard-bearer for the presidency is not doing well, it's going to reflect on the down ballot," Thompson told WKOW, a Madison, Wis., TV station, last week.
Democrats, meanwhile, are left to defend Obama on broader issues - his stewardship of the slowly recovering economy, the stubbornly high 8.1 percent unemployment rate, his health care overhaul that struck even some in his own party as a too-big government power grab.
That's easier for some than others. In Wisconsin, Democratic Rep.
"This is such an exciting end to such an exciting week. I never thought I'd be able to say that I would open for the president of the United States," Baldwin said.
In the crucial Senate battleground of Montana, though, a recent survey of the state from Mason Dixon polling showed Democratic Sen.
As a result, Tester has worked hard to put distance between himself and Obama. In one TV ad airing during the summer, Tester bragged that he "took on the Obama administration" and noted his votes against the auto and Wall Street bailouts, which Obama supported, and his support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which Obama has opposed.
If either Obama or Romney has coattails, it's most likely to show up in the race for the Senate. Republicans need to net four seats to take control of the chamber. The GOP has the potential to pick up four seats in states that Obama and Romney are fiercely contesting: Virginia, Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin. Republicans must also hold onto a Senate seat in Nevada, another presidential swing state.
Some potential for coattails shows up in polling.
In Virginia, Kaine's numbers have tracked closely with Obama's polling in the state. Last week, a poll released by
In Wisconsin, two recent polls, one from Quinnipiac University and
Retiring GOP Sen.
But, as Kyl noted, several key Senate battlegrounds are less likely to feel the impact of the presidential race. Romney is expected to romp in North Dakota and Montana, but both states' Senate races are close. On the other side, Obama should sweep Massachusetts, even as Warren and Brown go to the wire in a tight race.
In House races, the connection to the top of the ticket is inescapable - Republican vice presidential candidate
For example, in a close upstate New York contest, vulnerable Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul has sought to tie Ryan's budget to her opponent, Republican