(Bloomberg) -- When President Joe Biden visited Ohio on Wednesday, the top Democrats seeking statewide office in November both had other places to be.
Democratic Senate hopeful Tim Ryan and gubernatorial aspirant Nan Whaley’s decisions to steer clear of the president in a state Biden lost by more than 8 percentage points in 2020 exposes a gap between how the White House views Biden’s political clout and the view for candidates on the ground.
“There are no accidents when it comes to campaigns,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the non-partisan analysis publication Inside Elections. “The bottom line is that if President Biden was politically more popular that you would see more candidates wanting to appear with him.”
It wasn’t a first for Biden, who has visited Ohio six times as president. Ryan and Whaley also were absent in May, when he toured a manufacturing facility in suburban Cincinnati and demanded Congress pass legislation to make the US more competitive with China.
It was the same story in February, when he spoke in Lorain, Ohio, about how his signature infrastructure law would benefit the state. A Suffolk University/USA Today poll of likely Ohio voters released June 7 showed Biden with a 39% favorable rating in the state.
Biden’s faltering approval rating nationwide -- below 40% according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling analysis -- has contributed to Democrats publicly and privately questioning whether he should forgo seeking a second term in 2024.
A Harvard-Harris poll conducted late last month found that 71% of voters would prefer Biden didn’t seek a second term, underscoring the extent to which he could be a drag on candidates in the midterms.
Biden’s two predecessors -- Donald Trump, a Republican, and Democrat Barack Obama -- endured similar snubs from certain candidates before the 2018 and 2010 midterms, in which each watched their party lose control of the House amid voter discontent.
White House officials have downplayed the significance of candidates skipping events with Biden, including Ryan and Whaley’s absences at Wednesday’s event.
“He will go wherever he needs to go to talk directly to the American people,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Ohio, adding that Biden “connects and I think it makes a difference for them to hear from their president directly.”
Jean-Pierre said Biden’s team was in “close contact” with the Ryan and Whaley camps.
Other Democratic officials, including Representative Marcy Kaptur and Senator Sherrod Brown, attended Wednesday’s event and have appeared with Biden elsewhere in the state.
Statewide candidates’ inclination to avoid appearing alongside Biden isn’t limited to Ohio.
In Georgia, too, a state Biden narrowly won and that helped deliver him the presidency, progressive Democrat Stacey Abrams, who’s running for governor, didn’t appear for a January Biden speech in Atlanta, in which he laid out his vision for stronger voting rights protections.
Candidates -- Abrams, Ryan, and Whaley included -- routinely cite scheduling conflicts as their reason for missing a local presidential appearance.
Ryan, who trailed his Trump-backed Republican opponent, venture capitalist JD Vance, by 3 percentage points in a May USA Today poll, has sought to distance himself from Biden. He’s spoken out against easing tariffs on certain Chinese goods as Biden is considering doing, calling such a move a “major mistake.”
Read more: Biden to Get Little Inflation Relief If He Eases China Tariffs
Republicans are seizing on Biden’s visits to tie candidates to an unpopular president. Vance accused Ryan, a congressman whose district includes Akron and Youngstown, of “once again hiding from Biden when he visits Ohio.”
“For the second time in two months, Ryan is refusing to be seen in public with his own party’s president,” Vance said in a statement, alleging that Ryan won’t “stand up to Biden to protect Ohioans from his inflationary and job-killing economic agenda.”
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
BNN Bloomberg Picks
Rhine River gets too shallow in another crisis for European energy
How rising rates are making GICs more attractive for investors
Eric Nuttall's Top Picks: August 12, 2022
Mastercard faces retailer backlash over instalment payments
What to know about insurance in 'summer of travel hell'
Rubik's cube is going digital as Spin Master buys out game studio