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Obama shouldn't be campaigner-in-chief

By Ed Rollins, CNN Senior Political Analyst
  • President Obama has gotten on campaign trail for Democrats in midterms
  • Ed Rollins says presidents are often advised to stay presidential
  • He says Democrats have no one else to make the pitch on a national level
  • Rollins says Obama could damage his chances in 2012 by getting involved at midterm

Editor's note: Ed Rollins, a senior political contributor for CNN, is senior presidential fellow at the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University. He is a principal with the Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations firm. He was White House political director for President Ronald Reagan and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

New York (CNN) -- White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel may have gotten his get-out-of-jail card in just the nick of time.

With the announcement Tuesday by seven-term Chicago Mayor Richard Daley that he is not going to run again, Rahm can now run for a job he has always wanted.

"Mr. Mayor" is definitely a better job then Mr. Chief of Staff on a White House sinking faster than the Titanic.

Emanuel really wanted to be speaker of the House, but that's not among his options any more since joining the White House staff.

If the present voting trends continue for another eight weeks to Election Day, it might not be any Democrat's option. Emanuel getting out now seems most opportune. The majorities House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the president have enjoyed were built on conservative Democratic candidates who were recruited by Emanuel and elected by his efforts in 2006 and 2008 in Republican districts.

Video: 'They talk about me like a dog'
Video: Obama under pressure
Video: Chicago mayor's future

They are now the vulnerable incumbents fighting for their political lives in this election.

With the approach of the election, President Obama has taken off his commander-in-chief hat and has become the campaigner-in-chief for his faltering Democrat majorities.

He has dived head first and full speed into election mode and is trying to rev up his troops to turn out like they did in November '08. The White House political machine that has been sputtering for months has called out its star.

He accused us Republicans this week of treating him like a dog; so he's going to go out and growl. "They talk about me like a dog. That's not in my prepared remarks, but it's true," he said Monday in Wisconsin.

I have to say, I have not heard any Republican talk about the president "like a dog." And my mention of him here is not meant with any disrespect. He is the man, and as in every other occasion when his party gets in trouble, they trot him out to carry the ball. Maybe they have to.

He was a gifted campaigner in 2008. He was selling dreams and hope then.

Now he's selling programs that the public doesn't think are working. It's like the old saying by one of the nation's largest car dealers: "If the dog won't eat the dog food, then it's bad dog food."

The other problem is there is no one else who can sell -- and the president is overexposed.

The White House has discovered that Vice President Joe Biden, the man who was picked as veep because they thought he could help in Pennsylvania, and I guess Delaware, is going to be shut out in both those states.

It looks as if Republican congressman and former Gov. Mike Castle is going to win Biden's old Senate seat in Delaware. Biden's good pal Arlen Specter, who he talked into becoming a Democrat, already got wiped out in the primaries, and the Republican Pat Toomey seems to be coasting to victory.

What the Democrats in the White House are discovering is that Joe Biden is a windbag who wears out his welcome pretty quick. That's why after two years of campaigning in Iowa for president, he got less than 1 percent of the vote and finished fifth, beating out only uncommitted and Chris Dodd in the 2008 Iowa Caucus.

If the president is the "Big Dog," Biden is being treated by voters like the screeching cat out back you just want to squirt with the hose and chase off.

Vice presidents usually carry much of the heavy lifting in midterms. Nixon did it for Eisenhower. Agnew did it for Nixon. Mondale did it for Carter, George H.W. Bush did it for Reagan and Gore did it for Clinton.

I am not sure Biden helps you much. And the Cabinet and White House czars are invisible and would be useless to put out on the campaign trail because nobody knows who they are.

The problem with this team is that -- in addition to trying to sell legislative programs that a majority in the country think are too expensive -- there isn't anyone to sell them.

Pelosi is more unpopular than the Congress she leads and more than half the country has an unfavorable opinion of her -- and Majority Leader Harry Reid is fighting for his life against the candidate he so wanted to run against, Sharron Angle.

The only problem with the president out there every day taking on the Republicans and trying to make a bogeyman out of John Boehner is that nobody knows Boehner and the president brings himself down to a different level.

We former presidential advisers always tell a president to be presidential. This one is being congressional. Going negative has historically raised a president's disapproval numbers and dropped his approval rate.

This president now sits in the latest round of new polls near his historic low point. He promised to change the partisan tone in Washington, and he is now jumping into the fray. I don't think it will work at this point anyway.

If he isn't careful, at the end of this campaign, John Boehner will be the "Big Dog."

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Rollins.