It’s a truism of politics that it is tough to spin how you spend money.
For instance, if a party group pulls back on financial commitments to six House candidates – as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did last week – it’s a pretty good indication that headquarters thinks those races are lost.
But if Democrats are spending the money to gas up Air Force One and send the president on a road trip – well, he’s only going to go to places where party leaders think he can make a difference on Nov. 2. That means states where Democratic candidates might win, but might lose, too.
So you might want to closely watch the president’s travels later this week. From Wednesday into the weekend President Obama will engage in an intense few days of campaigning, swinging down the “Left Coast,” then back through the upper Midwest. His path will define a sort of Democratic Arc of Crisis – states where the tightness of key races is making party elders nervous.
Who is Mr. Obama trying to save? Here are five candidates he’ll be campaigning for:
John Kitzhaber. On Wednesday Obama currently is scheduled to jet straight from the White House to Oregon, where he will attend a fundraiser and rally for gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber. Mr. Kitzhaber is one of five ex-governors trying to win back their old office this election cycle. His opponent is Republican Chris Dudley, a former pro basketball player for the Portland Trail Blazers whose star power has enabled him to stay competitive in a state that normally leans to the left.
Patty Murray. After holding a town hall meeting in the Seattle area on Thursday, Obama will swing over to a rally for Sen. Patty Murray, Washington’s endangered Democratic incumbent. A few recent polls have showed Sen. Murray with a slight lead over GOP opponent Dino Rossi, but most analysts still rate this race a pure toss-up. “Washington [state] can be unpredictable despite its blue tinge, so we’ll keep watching,” wrote University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato about this race earlier in the month.
Barbara Boxer. On Friday Obama will move down the coast to Los Angeles, where he will attend events for Sen. Barbara Boxer, another endangered incumbent (see “Patty Murray”, above.) Senator Boxer has also opened a slight edge over her Republican opponent, ex-Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, to the point where Professor Sabato now rates this race “leans Democratic.” Big-name Democrats are piling into the state this week in an effort to bolster Boxer; besides the president, Vice President Joe Biden, ex-President Bill Clinton, and First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to have campaigned in California by this time next week.
Harry Reid. What more is there to say about the most-watched, most-combative Senate election of the cycle? Obama will swing through Las Vegas to appear for the Senate majority leader on Friday. Incumbent Sen. Harry Reid can’t open up any distance between himself and tea party favorite Sharron Angle; that does not bode well for his reelection.
Mark Dayton. After spending Friday night in Las Vegas, Obama will stop in Minnesota on Saturday before he flies home. He’s scheduled to appear at an event for ex-Sen. Mark Dayton, who is running for governor this time around. Mr. Dayton is locked in a virtual tie with Republican Tom Emmer, with an independent candidate, Tom Horner, drawing around 15 percent of the vote at the moment. The Minneapolis Star Tribune and several other big state papers have taken the unusual step of bypassing the two top candidates to endorse Horner, a former staff member for GOP Sen. David Durenberger.