Kansas City, Missouri -- After recently being seen as a campaign trail liability in neighboring Arkansas, President Obama returns to Missouri Thursday to raise money for Democratic senatorial candidate Robin Carnahan.
Carnahan is the leading contender in what is shaping up as an interesting race in the quintessential bell weather state. She’s vying to for the seat to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond and will most likely face former U.S. House Minority Whip Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
It's a far cry from the situation in Arkansas just mere weeks ago, when both Democratic candidates, incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln and challenger Bill Halter, both spurned any visit from the president, who was polling low among likely voters.
Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., who is in a tough re-election fight, is also welcoming the president’s help at a fundraiser in Nevada Thursday night.
Obama campaigned last year for candidates in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts who all ended up losing, and the president has been largely visibly absent from the trail this year.
For weeks now political insiders have been watching to see how closely Carnahan allies herself to the president.
In March President Obama visited St. Louis to raise money for democratic candidates, however at the time Carnahan was in Washington, her aides said the trip was planned before the president's visit was announced.
The Missouri 2010 midterm senatorial election is one of the rare ones this cycle where the Democrats have a chance at picking up a seat formerly held by a Republican. It also has all the hallmarks of a tight race; first of all it's in Missouri where Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, barely unseated incumbent Republican Jim Talent in 2006 and President Obama lost to Sen. John McCain by less than 4,000 votes in the 2008 presidential election.
Both candidates are also political royalty in the Show Me state. Carnahan is the secretary of state and daughter of Mel Carnahan, who served as governor and was also elected posthumously to the U.S. Senate. Roy Blunt has been in Missouri politics for nearly four decades and his son Matt was governor from 2005-2009.
The president will talk about green energy and the economy at Smith Electric Vehicles, after that he will head downtown for a fundraiser for Carnahan. Politicos will note that it's a quick trip and Carnahan will only appear briefly with the president.
Mixing the official event with a political appearance also means the White House can bill taxpayers rather than Carnahan's campaign for most of the president's travel expenses.
Asked in Wednesday’s White House press briefing if the president will be involved more in the mid-term elections, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, [W]e're getting much, much closer to the fall elections and the president will have, will do more things leading up to that.”
“I think he's -- he has been very involved in -- in raising money and in making an argument, and he'll certainly continue to do that.” Gibbs said.