President Obama hits the road today for a mix of policy and politics, using a two-day trip to Missouri and Nevada to tout clean energy and job creation and also bring in some campaign cash for two vulnerable Democratic Senate candidates.
Obama travels to Kansas City today to deliver remarks on the economy at Smith Electric Vehicles, which boasts of being the world's largest manufacturer of electric vehicles. After that he will do back to back fundraisers for Missouri's Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, the Democratic Party's likely nominee for the Senate this fall.
Obama then heads to Las Vegas for a Thursday night fundraiser with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and remarks on the economy Friday morning.
The dynamics of the Senate race in Nevada -- and politics in general -- are different than the last time Obama campaigned for Reid back in February.
Sen. Scott Brown had just won an upset victory in the race to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, breaking the Democrats supermajority in the Senate. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) announced he would not seek re-election, the fifth Democratic senator to do so, because of the hyper-partisanship that he felt prevent legislative progress in Washington. His announcement brought the number of vulnerable Democratic Senate seats to 10 and Obama's party was looking increasingly on the ropes for November, with Reid at the top of that list.
Reid is locked in a dead heat with his Republican challenger, newcomer Sharon Angle, but one Democratic official said that the "tectonic plates have shifted" in Nevada.
"At that time, talking about Harry Reid winning it would have been a joke," this official said about Obama's last visit to Nevada. "The fact is we're now in the hunt."
Several party officials expressed confidence that Reid is in good enough shape at this stage in the campaign and some were cautiously optimistic that the Senate Majority Leader will pull out the win.
That may be more because of the state of play on the Republican side than Reid suddenly improving his own standing in his home state. Angle came out of nowhere in the closing days of the Republican primary, buoyed by massive support from the Tea Party movement, which kicked in half a million for her campaign. Democrats have pointed to Angle's anti-government positions as evidence that she is outside of the mainstream and said at the time of her primary victory that they were glad to run against her because it enabled them to make the campaign all about her -- rather than a referendum on the unpopular Reid.
That dynamic is a theme that will be heard in races across the country, with the Democrats constantly saying the midterm elections are a choice, not a referendum on Obama or the Democratic majorities in Congress.
"There's a choice that candidates are going to be making in each race and it will turn on that," said one Democratic Party official.
But Republicans will certainly go the referendum route.