Democratic candidate for Congress Eric Stewart said he would support the president in this fall's general election after Republicans criticized him for not answering whether he would earlier in the week.
Stewart, who is challenging Rep. Scott DesJarlais in Tennessee's 4th District race, recently suggested to reporters that he was unsure of who he would support in this fall's election. Members of the Tennessee Republican Party saw an opportunity to criticize Stewart on the issue and did just that, releasing a statement attacking the candidate for not saying outright if he would support the GOP's most loathed opponent.
"How can Eric Stewart expect to have a serious conversation about the big issues facing our country, if he can't even tell us whether or not he will vote for his party's nominee, President Obama, in November?" said Adam Nickas, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party.
The criticism came on the heels of recent attacks from the Stewart campaign, which railed on DesJarlais for rejecting an invitation to hold three debates over the next month. After clarifying he would indeed support his own party's nominee, Stewart wasted no time in turning the negative focus to DesJarlais.
"I will be voting for the president because I cannot support a platform, like Congressman DesJarlais', that destroys Medicare, raises taxes on the middle class and working families, slashes financial aid to college students, and continues to reward companies that ship our jobs overseas," he said.
If Stewart had distanced himself from Obama—who was shown in a recent Vanderbilt University poll having a 39 percent approval rating with Tennesseans—he could have run the risk of not benefitting from future party connections in the coming months. Dr. Bruce Oppenheimer, professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt, said Stewart's ability to raise potential campaign funds from outside the 4th District could have been affected by not supporting the president.
"It's dangerous because you're going to alienate part of your base if you do that," Oppenheimer said. "… That might be good for some local political consumption, but it's not good strategy, especially if you're trying to raise money from Democratic Party sources. It doesn't help him in getting resources from the national party."
The general election is Nov. 6.