"The distilled argument that Republicans can clearly make to voters is that with the Democrats in charge we're advancing policies that are not helping them on the core issue they care about which is the economy," said Republican strategist Kevin Madden. "At the end of the day [voters] have reacted to the economic slowdown very conservatively. They spend less money and they've tried to do more with less and Washington has done the exact opposite -- spending is out of control and Democrats have grown the size of government."
Obama redrew the electoral map in 2008, picking up wins in states that Democrats had long been shut out, like North Carolina and Colorado. But as the campaign and Election Night faded in the rear-view mirror, the president's polling numbers declined from their peak in the upper 60s.
Today Obama's job approval ratings are hovering around the 50 percent mark but holding steady there for most of this year. The attitudes of Americans have continued to sour as unemployment remains high and job creation has been slow. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, sixty-two percent of Americans said they feel the country is on the wrong track, the highest level since before the 2008 election.
This is Obama's fifth trip to Missouri since he took office and he may have some unfinished business to wrap up there.
In the 2008 presidential campaign, Missouri was one of the key targeted battleground states that Obama was unable to flip from Red to Blue. It was also the state with the fewest votes separating Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Obama, with McCain winning by just 3,903 votes.
So it's perhaps that desire to flip something in the state from Republican to Democrat, and a hot Senate race that has Obama back in the Show-Me State once again.
The race for Missouri's open seat is shaping up as a bitter, close battle between Carnahan and Republican Rep. Roy Blunt. Democrats view the race as a prime opportunity, one of just a handful, to pick off a Republican seat by painting Blunt as a Washington insider while Republicans will try to link Carnahan to Obama and his agenda.
Obama was in St. Louis in March, raising money for the Democratic Party and for Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, an early supporter of his presidential bid who is not up for re-election until 2012.
Carnahan was conspicuously absent -- she was in Washington for meetings, part of her official duties as Secretary of State. Democrats said she was not dissing the president, but chalked it up to a scheduling conflict.
State and national Republicans tried to make hay of her absence when Obama was in town, suggesting that she wanted to avoid a photo op with a president whose polling numbers were declining. Blunt's campaign said that Carnahan could fly east but she "can't hide from her rubber-stamp support of Barack Obama."
White House and Democratic Party officials still will not reveal where the president will campaign between now and Election Day, but maintain, as they have for months, that there is a large stack of requests for his time. Party officials say that Obama will be more visible on the trail over the next four months and will "aggressively" for Democratic candidates where and when he can be helpful.