Barack Obama hit Chicago Wednesday night for a couple of uber-pricey fundraisers; the priciest ($35,800 a couple) at the Lake View home of billionaire Fred Eychaner. The president gave a shout-out to, in his words, “sort of a carpetbagger,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, the rookie Democrat from Missouri. “I just love her so whenever I have an excuse to see her I’m happy,” he gushed to the group of 60 that included, in addition to McCaskill, Sen. Dick Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn, and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
McCaskill’s presence—and the fact that she was singled out by Obama—is a sure sign that he is making a slight but real comeback, buoyed by better economic numbers as he heads into a tough but no longer seemingly hopeless reelection contest.
It was just three months ago that the president traveled to St. Louis to raise money for his reelection at two private events. McCaskill, one of Obama’s earliest and most fervent (“Our economy needs Barack Obama as president”) boosters, made headlines then for staying in Washington. Yes, the Senate was in session and, yes, McCaskill attended a fundraiser that night hosted by Sen. Chuck Schumer, but, typically, a president would be greeted by his party's senator—especially a senator who so avidly supported him during the campaign. (McCaskill told me in an interview I did with her on October 27, 2009, that, as a woman, it was “tough” for her to go with Obama over Hillary Clinton. “A lot of my friends and supporters were very much in the Clinton camp. As a woman, I had obviously mixed emotions about not supporting the first viable woman candidate for president, but ultimately I made the decision that Barack Obama was such a once-in-a-generation leader, and was in a unique and special position to capture the presidency that I endorsed him very, very early in 2008.")
The takeaway, and it was warranted, was that McCaskill, just finishing her first term and facing a bruising battle for reelection this year—attacked by Republicans for providing Obama with key votes on health care and the $787 billion stimulus—did not want to occupy the same camera frame as the president, whose reelection prospects were then tanking.
I emailed the Senator’s political spokesman—McCaskill is at the top of the list of the vulnerable Democrats that Republicans hope to knock off in their quest to take control of the Senate—to inquire if her appearance here means she’s now up for campaigning with the president. The president and the senator’s approval ratings have both hovered, at times, around 43 percent; Obama’s perked up a bit, but his small uptick is one bad unemployment number or one Euro crisis away from dipping again.
A response from the McCaskill’s spokesman was not received by post time.
Photography: (Obama) Esther Kang; (McCaskill) McCaskill's Flickr