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Obama's no-fly zones: White House carefully maps campaigner in chief's midterm election strategy

April 6, 2010 | 10:29 am

President Obama campaigns for New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine during a campaign appearance July 16, 2009 by AP

When President Obama was in Missouri recently, Robin Carnahan left for D.C.

Carnahan is the Democratic candidate for Senate, running in a decidedly purple state (swings between Republican red and Democratic blue). Missouri's secretary of State opted to stick to her official schedule in the nation’s capital rather than appear with the president in her home state.

What's wrong with this picture? Or rather, why didn't she want one?

Turns out candidates all over the country have informed the White House that this would not be the best time for a presidential visit. The unpopularity of Obama's healthcare reform, the anger of "tea party" activists over runaway spending in Washington, the stubborn unemployment numbers that have left millions of Americans still out of work -- all are forcing Team Obama to be strategic about where to send the top of the ticket (not us of course).

Endangered Democrats such as Arkansas' Blanche Lincoln will not be on the tarmac waiting for....

...Air Force One to land anytime soon. In a toxic partisan atmosphere, some Democratic candidates will not want their photograph taken with the president."There are some cases, like Blanche Lincoln, where it's not helpful," said one official.

Elsewhere, candidates are making their own political calculations about the pros and cons of a presidential appearance. Some, such as Carnahan, are conveniently electing to be out of town when he visits, concluding that an Obama embrace might do more harm than good.

Others, such as South Carolina's John Spratt, are risking campaign fallout by accepting rides on Air Force One and getting shout-outs from the president from the podium. And of course others facing tough races, such as California's Barbara Boxer, welcome a visit from Obama, just about anytime.

She might want to reconsider.

Despite Obama's personal popularity among the Democratic base, his appearances have not always helped Democratic candidates cross the finish line. A rousing campaign appearance in New Jersey in July (in the photo above) did not save incumbent Jon Corzine. And no amount of campaigning was destined to save Massachusetts Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley from the phenom of 2009: Republican Scott Brown.

Still, the White House plans to put the president on the road at fundraisers over the summer and campaign stops after Labor Day.

Betcha Carnahan stays away then too.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Associated Press

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