Obama steps up the money chase -- avoids appearances 

By Julie Mason Examiner White House Correspondent

President Obama's fundraising trip to Texas on Monday takes him within a few miles of former President George W. Bush's house -- closer than some Democrats want to get to Obama this season.

Fewer than 100 days out from the midterm elections, Obama is stepping up the money chase. Not on the schedule much: personal appearances and rallies.

"The president is doing what the president traditionally does, which is helping to raise money for the campaign season as things approach," said White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton.

The administration says Obama will be campaigning nationwide. But across the map, hostile territories are emerging where the president is a liability. Candidates in those areas have their hands out for money -- but aren't posing for pictures.

"If you are running in a state where Obama is still popular, then it's fine," said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "Otherwise, it's better to just have the money laundered through the DNC."

The president last week headlined four Democratic National Committee fundraisers. At two, attendees paid the maximum $30,400 to attend -- underscoring Obama's still-potent fundraising prowess.

In Texas, he is raising money for the party and for Senate Democratic candidates -- a fact that rankled some Texas Democrats, who complained he was pulling financial resources from the state.

Democrat Bill White, who is challenging Republican Gov. Rick Perry, made it clear he won't appear with Obama, saying it could cost him support.

Obama's campaign trail radioactivity is reminiscent of the last two years of the Bush administration, when the incumbent was in high demand as a party fundraiser but not much else.

It more aptly recalls former President Clinton's first term, when Republicans ran an effective series of television ads showing various Democrats morphing into Clinton.

Obama this week travels to Atlanta for an official event and another DNC fundraiser. Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes -- a Democrat seeking to return to his old office -- will be campaigning in another part of the state.

Southern states are tough for Obama -- along with parts of the Midwest, the border states, Rocky Mountain states and more. Democratic candidates relying on independent or moderate voters feel they can't afford to be seen with him.

"There is a big cost attached to his fundraising," Sabato said. "You get his presence in a state, and you get tied to him -- and his unpopularity."

Pennsylvania is a perfect example. Democratic Senate nominee Joe Sestak told reporters last week that Obama offered to campaign for him this fall.

Obama won Pennsylvania in 2008 with 54.7 percent of the vote. But since then, his popularity has dropped, according to Rasmussen Reports. Now, just 46 percent in Pennsylvania approve of the job he is doing.

Sestak is trailing Republican opponent Pat Toomey, 39 percent to 45 percent, with a critical 10 percent undecided, according to Rasmussen.

According to published reports, Sestak claims he told the White House he'd rather get help from Michelle Obama -- the widely popular first lady.

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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