WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is talking to voters again about jobs and the economy. But he's also concerned with two jobs in particular: Senate seats for Democrats in Missouri and Nevada.
With Democrats facing uphill battles in the November elections, Obama is combining a couple of economy-focused events Thursday and Friday with a campaign swing on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Missouri Senate hopeful Robin Carnahan. [See which industries are giving money to Reid.]
Reid is in trouble in his bid for a fifth term, with unemployment sky-high in Nevada and Republicans working furiously to unseat him. Carnahan, Missouri's secretary of state, represents a chance for a much-needed Democratic pickup of the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Kit Bond.
Obama will aim to energize their supporters Thursday with a sharply partisan message he's been honing of late.
The man who pledged during his campaign to bridge partisan divides has begun playing into them as his party claws for political advantage. Obama's been singling out individual Republican House members for comments he says show they care more about corporations than people.
Ahead of Thursday's trip, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said voters could expect to hear Obama repeat his attacks on Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who had to apologize for apologizing to BP PLC, the primary owner of the blown-out well spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and House Minority Leader John Boehner, who contends his metaphor likening the financial crisis to an "ant" is being twisted by Democrats. [See where Boehner's campaign cash comes from.]
"Obviously, we're getting much, much closer to the fall elections, and the president will have, will do more things leading up to that," Gibbs said. "He has been very involved in raising money and in making an argument."
A sitting president's party typically loses seats in Congress during midterm elections. On top of that, Democrats are battling an anti-incumbent fervor fanned by high unemployment.
Nonetheless, Obama's argument will in part be an economic one, starting with a visit Thursday to an electric truck manufacturer in Kansas City, Mo., that got money from last year's big economic stimulus bill.
Obama has been trying to get voters to buy a message he himself acknowledges is a tough sell — that things would be a lot worse if the $862 billion stimulus bill had not passed. Obama also plans remarks on the economy Friday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
In between he'll be raising money for Carnahan and Reid. The pairing of official presidential events with campaign appearances lets the White House bill taxpayers rather than the candidates' campaigns for most of the president's travel costs.
In Nevada, Reid is welcoming the president to a state Obama won with 55 percent of the vote in 2008. Unemployment in Nevada is at 14 percent, the highest of any state, and the White House inevitably gets some of the blame. But so does Reid, and he needs all the help he can get with his approval ratings sagging under constant GOP attacks.
Reid is facing tea party-backed Sharron Angle, who was welcoming Obama with a reference to the kerfuffle the president caused in February when he asserted that people saving for college shouldn't "blow a bunch of cash on Vegas."
Obama has issued plenty of mea culpas since then to politicians and residents hypersensitive about protecting Las Vegas' battered tourism industry. That didn't stop the Angle campaign from issuing a news release reading a sarcastic message into Obama's visit: "President Obama: 'Don't go to Vegas unless it's to bail out Harry Reid.'"
Obama is to appear at a reception and dinner for Reid that are expected to reap about $800,000.
In Missouri, Obama will make his first fundraising appearance for Carnahan, who was out of the state in March when the president attended a joint fundraiser for Sen. Claire McCaskill and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. That caused speculation about whether Carnahan was purposely keeping Obama at arm's length in a state he narrowly lost in 2008.