WHITE HOUSE —
The Ebola outbreak that has killed thousands of people in West Africa has emerged as an issue in the U.S. midterm elections. In recent days, President Barack Obama has been front and center on the Ebola response after polls showed many Americans disapproved of his handling of the situation. .
From giving a big hug to newly recovered nurse Nina Pham to thanking U.S. health care workers on the frontlines of the Ebola fight.
“We need to call them what they are, which is American heroes. They deserve our gratitude," said President Obama.
President Obama has spent a good part of the past two weeks reassuring the American public on Ebola, even taking a few minutes before embarking on a campaign trip last week to speak to reporters at the White House.
“America in the end is not defined by fear. That is not who we are. America is defined by possibility. And when we see a problem and we see a challenge, then we fix it," said Obama.
The stepped up media effort seems to be working, with a recent poll showing about 49 percent of those surveyed approve of President Obama’s handling of the Ebola issue - up eight percent from two weeks ago.
George Washington University Professor Matt Dallek:
“All these ways, aggressive ways, in which the White House has been trying to kind of push back on the story, demonstrate that it is in charge and that it is effective, have been helpful politically," said Dallek.
But it is not just President Obama who has made Ebola a central issue in recent days. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, seen here campaigning for Republican candidates, made headlines after he ordered the quarantine of an American nurse who had returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.
“We are not going to take any risks with the public health of New Jersey," said Christie.
Political Management professor Matt Dallek says crises like Ebola and the Islamic State militant group’s gaining ground in Iraq have created an opening for Republicans during the midterm election campaign.
“At least, historically in the last 30, 40 years, Republicans have often been seen as being stronger than Democrats, tough on national security, tough on law and order, being willing to take the extra step to protect you," he said.
While global crises have influenced U.S. midterm campaigns, the impact of Americans fear of Ebola will likely be made clear on Tuesday, when voters decide who should represent them in Congress.