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The Morning Line: Deep in the Heart of Texas

After a bachelor weekend that included playing a round of golf with old friends on Saturday and basketball with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony on Sunday, President Obama welcomes the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints to the White House on Monday morning.

Not a bad gig for a sports nut like Mr. Obama.

The rest of the president’s day is likely to be a lot less fun. He’s doing what he’ll spend most of August doing — raising campaign cash hand over fist in an effort to help mitigate the huge Democratic losses expected in November.

(And he hops on Air Force One on Monday with this new little factoid from Gallup: “Since 1946, when presidents are above 50% approval, their party loses an average of 14 seats in the U.S. House in the midterm elections, compared with an average loss of 36 seats when presidents are below that mark.” Mr. Obama’s approval rating is averaging 45 percent during the last two weeks of Gallup Daily tracking.)

President Obama heads to the heart of Bush country for two Texas fundraisers. First up is an afternoon fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Austin. Monday evening, the president heads to Dallas to help fill the coffers of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

From a DNC official: “We’re expecting over 200 local supporters at the Four Seasons in Austin. Tickets begin at $5,000 per couple, and the event is expected to raise approximately between $750,000 $1,000,000. The DNC will be moving $250,000 to the Texas Democratic Party as result of the event as well.”

And much like in Georgia last week with Roy Barnes, the Democratic candidate for governor in the very red state of Texas is avoiding any joint appearances with President Obama. Former Houston mayor Bill White is in a competitive battle for the governor’s mansion against incumbent Rick Perry. More likely than not, we’ll see Democrats in Republican leaning states repeat this disappearing act when the president rolls through town from now through November.

That won’t stop Republicans from doing their best to tie President Obama to their Democratic opponents. Be sure to check out the Perry campaign’s amusing web video, which places Bill White directly in the middle of the famous “Yes We Can” video from the 2008 presidential campaign.

ESTABLISHMENT IN TROUBLE

On Tuesday, Democrats in Colorado will choose who they want to run for a U.S. Senate seat in November: current Sen. Michael Bennet or Andrew Romanoff, former Colorado House speaker. President Obama and most of the Democratic Party establishment (with the exception of former President Bill Clinton, who endorsed Romanoff) back Bennet, with the president recently participating in a tele-town hall event on Bennet’s behalf.

But the upstart Romanoff campaign has whittled away at Bennet’s lead and turned what was supposed to be a breeze for Bennet into a nasty fight that could end with another incumbent losing a job before November.

The New York Times describes the Bennet-Romanoff race, as well as the Republican primary between Ken Buck and Jane Norton, as a “shootouts.” Carl Hulse of the Times writes that if Romanoff and Buck win, the victories would be a huge blow to the party establishments.

In the Washington Post, Dan Balz looks at how negative the Democratic primary has become, while pointing out that most of the in-party fighting this election season has erupted between establishment Republicans and Tea Party challengers.

Romanoff’s campaign recently released this attack ad accusing Bennet of “gambling with our children’s future.” The ad is based on a New York Times story about an exotic debt deal that Bennet helped negotiate between the Denver Public Schools and a Wall Street firm. The deal went sour, and it ended up costing the school system millions of dollars.
Bennet spent the weekend campaigning with working class Coloradans, perhaps to dispell the perception that he’s an establishment crony of Wall Street.

From the Denver Post:

He was lucky to meet two dozen overnight workers in eight hours, shaking hands with graveyard-shift nurses in Hugo and touring the Lincoln County Jail at 3 a.m. It was an exhausting but decidedly lonely effort, in a campaign that would love to see at least 325,000 Democrats vote.

“This is why we get out here,” Bennet insisted.

“You get away from all that,” Bennet said, gesturing toward Denver and metaphorically toward Washington, “and people aren’t asking about all that other stuff.”

In Connecticut, where primary voters also vote Tuesday, the Democratic candidate is also on shaky ground, despite the fact that Connecticut is a solid blue state. State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the front-runner to replace retiring Sen. Chris Dodd., has seen his lead against Republican challenger Linda McMahon erode as McMahon has attacked Blumenthal for allegedly misrepresenting his service record in the military.

McMahon is also facing a primary challenge from former congressman Rob Simmons.

In the Connecticut primary for governor, the Democratic side is too close to call. A poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University has businessman Ned Lamont and former Stamford mayor Dan Malloy essentially tied, with Lamont at 45 percent and Malloy at 42 percent. Lamont is well known for his primary win over Sen. Joe Lieberman in 2006, which led Lieberman to leave the Democratic Party and become an independent.

FLOTUS UP FRONT

The New York Times delivered a double whammy to the first family over the weekend. A story on Sunday by Peter Baker describes criticism against Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain with her daughter and friends. And columnist Maureen Dowd writes about being politically tone deaf by taking a lavish trip in tough economic times.

It’s certainly clear that political advisers to the president had no real say in Mrs. Obama’s decision to take her youngest daughter to Spain. And, if you read David Axelrod’s comments in Dowd’s column, it’s just as clear that they anticipated taking a bit of a PR hit on the trip.

“Politically, it was not a smart move. But in the grand scheme of things, what real difference does it make?” Cokie Roberts said Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” when asked about the first lady’s travels.

Mrs. Obama remains the most frequently requested campaigner on the trail, and that’s likely to remain the case through November. Her approval ratings are better than her husband’s (often the case with first ladies), and vulnerable Democrats queasy about appearing on stage with the president are likely eager to have her join them.