Obama viewed as liability in congress election battle
AFTER Jared Lee Loughner shot Gabrielle Giffords through the head in an Arizona car park last in January year, he turned his Glock pistol on Ron Barber.
Mr Barber, a senior aide accompanying the Democratic congresswoman, was wounded. While he and 11 more victims lived, six others were killed.
US President Barack Obama led the tributes to the survivors. Yet if Mr Barber (66), wins a by-election to replace Ms Giffords here tomorrow, it will be no thanks to a president whose unpopularity in the sharply-divided constituency has made him a serious electoral liability.
Ms Giffords (42) continues to receive treatment. She has appeared only twice in Mr Barber's campaign, for its launch in March and on Saturday night, at a rally in Tucson. Limping and wearing an arm brace, she was only able to utter haltingly the same four words as on her first appearance for Mr Barber: "Thank you very much."
None of the speakers dared mention Mr Obama, who does not even appear in Mr Barber's campaign material.
Asked at a debate last month by Jesse Kelly, his Tea Party-backed Republican opponent, how he would vote in the presidential election, Mr Barber paused for four agonising seconds. "My vote is my vote, Mr Kelly, as yours is too," he said eventually.
He was later forced to clarify that he would, indeed, be voting Obama.
Mr Barber was born in Wakefield in Yorkshire. He moved to Tucson at 14 after his Northern Irish mother married an American serviceman.
He insisted that voters were not mentioning the president on the doorstep.
"It just doesn't come up," he said. "What comes up is what's going on in their lives -- the middle class feels squeezed."
Yet supporters acknowledge that Mr Obama looms large.
"He's too politically dangerous to talk about," said Ronald Cohen, a retired pharmacist. "And Ron disagrees with him on several things."
Mr Obama's health care overhaul, environmental policies, and plans to raise taxes for top earners, all appear to rankle.
A PPP poll of Arizona last month put Mr Obama seven percentage points behind Mitt Romney. (© Daily Telegraph, London)