Radioactive.

(Politico) — A number of moderate Democrats like Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar and liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders are declining to give their unqualified support for the president, saying they’re either too focused on their own races or are calling on the White House to cater to their agendas before they will offer an endorsement. Some up for reelection in red states or in swing districts fear that even showing up on stage with Obama will give their opponents an image to seize upon — much as Democrats did in 2008 when they repeatedly flashed shots of Sen. John McCain hugging President George W. Bush.

So as the president faces the dual challenges of energizing his base while wooing moderates, some Democrats in Congress are keeping their distance, with the president’s approval rating hovering in the mid-40s — and even lower in states like West Virginia, where moderate Sen. Joe Manchin is up for reelection.

“I’m supporting the state of West Virginia and the people of West Virginia,” the freshman Democrat said, when asked if he backed the president’s reelection bid.

Informed that West Virginia won’t be on the ballot next year, Manchin chuckled and said: “You don’t know that. You know something I don’t know?”

In the House, moderate Democrats have a tough calculation to make, a product of the volatile political landscape and a still-undefined presidential race. No matter how low the president’s approval ratings get, they tend to be higher than congressional Republicans. Some Democrats in the House will wait and see whom Obama is running against before they decide whom they’ll be running against — the president or his opponent.

With one year until voters decide their fate, many vulnerable Democrats are dancing around the issue of supporting the president.

Of more than a dozen congressional offices POLITICO contacted in the moderate Blue Dog Caucus, only a handful were willing to comment on whether they supported Obama’s reelection bid.

Others, including Reps. Tim Holden and Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Ben Chandler of Kentucky, Jim Costa of California, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Michael Michaud of Maine, declined repeated requests for comment on whether they will stump for the president or even support him in 2012.

Some are keeping their distance.

On a recent presidential trip to Pittsburgh to talk about jobs, Altmire was there to greet the president at the airport but didn’t stay for his visit.

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