|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
The president’s top strategists have recruited candidates — and nudged others to step aside — in races in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. They said they intended to continue this practice heading into the 2010 midterm elections, as well as with an eye to the redistricting fights that will go on within states early in the next decade.
The intense involvement reflects the tactics and style of the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who helped Democrats win the House three years ago as chairman of the Congressional campaign committee.
While some party officials applaud the White House for its efforts — there is widespread concern among Democrats that the party could suffer if Mr. Paterson runs — the actions are drawing alarm from some Democrats who believe they cross a line and run contrary to Mr. Obama’s often-stated pledge to rise above partisan battles.
“The Democratic Party under Barack Obama did not come into office because of political calculation; it got there because of audacity,” said Representative Joe Sestak, a Pennsylvania Democrat who ignored White House efforts to urge him to stay out of a primary race against Senator Arlen Specter. “To be seen like you are selecting winners and losers in a party-boss way will breed some resentment, and in a longer term it won’t bode well.”
In Pennsylvania, the White House has rallied behind Mr. Specter, a Republican-turned-Democrat, as he faces off in a Democratic primary against Mr. Sestak. The support from the president reflects a promise Democrats made to Mr. Specter earlier this year in persuading him to switch parties.
“An endorsement by the president is a tremendous boost,” Mr. Specter said. “He’s the captain of the team.”
More than anything, though, the interventions reflect a controlling style of this White House and of Mr. Emanuel, who employed similar hard-ball tactics to recruit candidates when he was running the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In addition to Mr. Emanuel, the White House political director, Patrick Gaspard, and deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, keep close watch on all political races.