Campaigning in Missouri for a Democratic Senate hopeful, President Obama fine-tuned the economic theme he hopes will carry the party through the fall: Yes, things are bad -- but Republicans are worse.

"The last thing we should do is go back to the ideas that got us in this situation in the first place," Obama said at a Kansas City fundraiser for Robin Carnahan. "It is a choice between falling backwards or moving forward."

Carnahan is trailing Republican Rep. Roy Blunt for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Kit Bond, a Republican. Blunt's lead is within the margin of error, and the race is expected to be close.

Obama, while acknowledging that his own economic policies are showing only modest success, blamed Republican tax cuts, lax oversight of big industry and fondness for spending for creating the problem.

"The same folks in the other party, whose policies gave us the economic crisis, are now looking for another chance to lead. They spent nearly a decade driving the economy into the ditch and now are asking for the car keys back," Obama said. "They can't have them back. They don't know how to drive."

Obama lost Missouri in the 2008 election, and the latest Rasmussen Reports survey in the state found that 47 percent approve of the job he is doing, compared to 53 percent who disapprove.


  It's Obama versus the Tea Party in Nevada President Obama's repeated trips to Las Vegas this year might almost raise some eyebrows -- except that it's largely in the service of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid, a key White House ally, is in a close race against Republican Sharron Angle, a candidate with backing from the Tea Party movement. Vice President Joe Biden recently gave Reid about a 55 percent chance for re-election. Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton declined to venture the odds. "I never go to Vegas, [and] I'm no odds maker," Burton said. "Harry Reid is a fighter ... and we have no doubt that this is going to be a competitive race." A Rasmussen Reports survey in late June found Angle leading with 48 percent to 41 percent for Reid, whom pollsters called one of the most vulnerable Democratic congressional incumbents nationwide. Still, Obama's opposition to Arizona's immigration law and efforts to jump-start immigration reform are expected to help Reid by energizing his state's Hispanic voters. The president on Thursday headlined two fundraisers for Reid, and will appear with him Friday at an event on the economy.  


Carnahan, like many swing state Democratic candidates this year, faces a choice when she invites Obama to the campaign.

Missouri's unemployment rate of 8.8 percent in April was lower than the national average of 9.5 percent, but the economy and jobs are still a central concern.

Obama's signature piece of legislation, his national health care plan, is more strongly opposed by Missouri voters than voters nationwide, according to Rasmussen

Some 61 percent in Missouri favor repeal of the law, to 35 percent who oppose repeal -- meaning health care is not a good issue for Obama to campaign on in Missouri.

Blunt told reporters he welcomed Obama's involvement in Carnahan's campaign -- because aligning her with Obama's policies would help his own race.

Even so, Obama remains a popular figure within the Democratic Party and a prodigious fundraiser. His two events in Kansas City raised $500,000.

Steven S. Smith, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, noted that Obama's standing in Missouri is about the same as it is nationally, saying "he's no worse off, no better off" than elsewhere.

"This is a dead heat [Senate] race, and anything that could make a difference now could be beneficial to her," Smith said. "One thing that could make a difference is if Obama's supporters turned out like they did in 2008."

Smith added, "In the end, I think Carnahan believes that she, just like Obama, has to prove to middle-of-the-road voters that sticking with Obama is better than returning Republicans to Congress."