Obama-phobia? Chandler, Donnelly stay home as president accepts nomination


by Joe Arnold


Posted on September 6, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 7 at 8:44 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- It will be a packed house at the Democratic National Convention Thursday night after the DNC moved President Barack Obama's acceptance speech from a 65,000 seat stadium to a 20,000 seat arena.

At least two seats are up for grabs after two local Congressmen decided to stay away from the convention.

U.S. Representatives Ben Chandler (D-KY) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) are two of some twenty national Democrats facing tough election fights and keeping their distance from Obama as their opponents attempt to link them to Obama.
At least six Democrats running for U.S. Senate and ten for the U.S. House have stayed away from the convention.

You might call it Obama-phobia. 

Obama trails Mitt Romney by double digits in Indiana surveys.  In the Kentucky primary, 42 percent of Democrats voted against Obama - choosing "uncommitted" instead.
"I think it's dangerous to worry about stuff like that," said Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen (D), who is attending the convention.  "I think when you've got politicians who just make political calculations for the sake of making political calculations, I think that's when it's dangerous."

"I have made no qualms about my devotion to the Democratic party and being a Democrat," added Alison Lundergan-Grimes (D), Kentucky Secretary of State.  "I'm proud to be a Democrat, but as Secretary of State you wear a hat that represents everyone."

Governor Steve Beshear, once embroiled in an election year controversy after he did not appear with Obama when the president visited Fort Campbell, Ky, put his outrage over Obama administration coal policies aside to lead Kentucky's delegation. 

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D) of Louisville stood alongside Beshear for the roll call of delegates' votes, but Kentucky's other Democrat Congressman, Ben Chandler, was nowhere to be seen.

WHAS11's attempts to reach Chandler were unsuccessful on Thursday.

In July, Chandler's spokeswoman told the Lexington Herald-Leader that his absence had "nothing to do with President Obama," but a "full schedule in the district."

The campaign of Chandler's Republican opponent, Andy Barr, is complaining that Chandler refuses to make time for any debates, despite the time gained by skipping the convention.

"As Congressman Chandler keeps avoiding all open public forums -- even one proposed for this week -- it becomes even clearer that he is using his constituents to hide from Barack Obama."  said David Host, Communications Director of Andy Barr for Congress.

Absent from Indiana's delegation is Congressman Joe Donnelly (D), the Democratic nominee in Indiana's U.S. Senate race.

"Joe Donnelly is ducking the DNC convention because he is trying to distance himself from Obama and the president's failed policies," said Christopher Conner, spokesman for the Republican Senate nominee Richard Mourdock, "ObamaCare tax, stimulus plan and the bailouts of Wall Street, which Donnelly voted for and still supports."

"The difference is simple: Richard Mourdock was proud to stand next to his party's presidential nominee and Joe Donnelly isn't," Conner said.
Donnelly, however, tells WHAS11 that he has never attended a Democratic convention.  In 2008, he used the convention recess to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"I thought it was a chance for me to get a lot of work done here at home and that's why I stayed home," Donnelly said.

Asked if he was running with or running away from Barack Obama, Donnelly said he is "running for Indiana."

"So, when the President's right I'll be with him and when he's not, I won't."

Donnelly said the Obama campaign's deficit in Indiana polls does not affect the Senate campaign, which Donnelly said has been defined my Mourdock's call for partisanship.

"I'm the hired help here," Donnelly continued, "and my job is to make sure that we're taking care of all the details not only for our congressional district at this time but to try to talk to everybody around the state about the issues that face us."

In Kentucky, House Speaker Greg Stumbo's support of Obama at the Fancy Farm picnic in August is now being used by Republicans in other races across the Commonwealth.

With Kentucky's top Democrats supporting Obama in Charlotte, it's an allegiance that may come at a price.

"This is who I am," Edelen said.  "Like it or not, I can't be anything else.  And if the folks don't like it, then I'll go back to coaching T-ball."