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First thoughts: The Campaigner-in-Chief

The Campaigner-in-Chief heads to Missouri (for Robin Carnahan) and Nevada (for Harry Reid)… Biden also hits the trail for Barbara Boxer, who is up by just three points over Carly Fiorina, per a new Field Poll… David Vitter finally meets the press (and it wasn't that pretty)… Why candidates this cycle -- Republican or Democratic -- are ducking the press… Our early look at Mitt Romney’s inner circle… And Team McCain to once again pounce on J.D. Hayworth’s 2007 get-grant-money infomercial.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** The Campaigner-in-Chief: As much of the nation turns its attention to where LeBron James will go -- ESPN says all the signs are pointing to Miami -- Democratic candidates in the Midwest and West are focused on President Obama’s arrival. At 3:05 pm ET, Obama delivers remarks at a Kansas City fundraiser for Missouri Senate candidate Robin Carnahan (D), and then speaks again for her 40 minutes later at a grassroots event in the city. (Before those remarks, at 1:30 pm ET, Obama gives a speech on the economy in Kansas City.) Then the president heads to Las Vegas, where he hits two events for vulnerable Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one at 9:15 pm ET and the other at 10:30 pm ET. http://es.pn/ciKW3H

*** Boxed in? Vice President Biden is in campaign mode, too. At 4:00 pm ET in Portland, Biden attends an event for Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader (D). And then he travels to California to stump for Sen. Barbara Boxer, which takes place at 8:30 pm ET. Biden’s help for Boxer -- the third such trip that the president and vice president have made on behalf of the senator in the last few months -- comes as a new Field Poll shows her leading opponent Carly Fiorina by just three points, 47%-44%. The San Francisco Chronicle has more on the poll: “Boxer's slight numerical lead masks potentially serious problems for the senator, starting with how 52 percent of the respondents hold an unfavorable view of her. At the same time, her job approval rating is among the lowest that Field has measured for her since she was first elected to the Senate in 1992: 43 percent of registered voters disapprove of her performance while 42 percent approve.”

*** The coattails factor: One thing to keep in mind regarding Boxer: This could be the first election she's faced without coattails at the top of the ticket. In 1992 and 2004, she had the presidential coattails driving turnout. And in 1998, the Gray Davis landslide was a boon to all Democrats in the state. Boxer needs not just help from national Democrats, but she also needs Jerry Brown to improve his prospects.

*** Vitter meets the press: Over the past week, Democrats have pounced on an ABC report noting how an aide to Sen. David Vitter (R) -- who handled women’s issues for the Louisiana senator -- was accused in ’08 of threatening to kill his girlfriend and cutting her with a knife; the aide remained on Vitter’s staff until ABC ran its report. Vitter finally took reporters’ questions on the matter, per NBC’s Sarah Blackwill. On how opponent Charlie Melancon (D) is making this an issue: “The fact that Charlie is so focused on … an ex-employee, something that happened two years ago, I think just shows how weak a position he's in and I think it's going to absolutely going to come across that way to the voters.” In response to a follow-up that it just wasn’t two years ago since the aide remained on Vitter’s staff until recently: “Well, the event was two years ago, the disciplining in my office was two years ago.” On why the aide was assigned to women’s issues: “He was not.” Since then, however, Democrats have provided evidence showing that the aide did in fact work on women’s issues.

*** I ran, I ran so far away…: While Vitter finally faced up to reporters yesterday, Politico’s Martin notes all the candidates this cycle who are running away from the press. Call it the political reality after “Macaca.” Martin writes, “A proliferation of cameras and microphones — and the knowledge that an indelible blunder can occur in virtually any setting — has caused politicians in both parties to button up and hunker down. ‘The irony is that in an political environment in which voters are demanding authenticity, candidates find themselves in a technological environment that exploits authenticity,’ lamented [GOP strategist] Mark McKinnon… ‘So rather than show more of themselves as voters want, candidates are showing less of themselves for fear of revealing too much.’” Talk about your unintended consequences of the media world becoming flat. More media outlets and yet less access.

*** 2012 Thursday: Today, we’re starting a new weekly feature looking at the emerging 2012 presidential race, and we’re beginning with a look at the inner circles, a.k.a., kitchen cabinets, of the active '12 prospective candidates. Our initial foray is a glance at Mitt Romney’s inner circle, which includes 2008 campaign manager Beth Myers; Romney’s Free & Strong PAC executive director Matt Rhoades, who was the ’08 campaign’s communications director; PAC adviser/traveling spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom; GOP media consultants Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer; counsel/adviser Ben Ginsberg, conservative-outreach adviser Peter Flaherty; ’08 campaign finance director Spencer Zwick; friends Ron Kaufman and Bob White; and adviser Kevin Madden, who was a national spokesman for the ’08 campaign. By the way, the Free & Strong PAC, which is based in Massachusetts, has raised more than $6.2 million as of May 31, and spent almost $5 million -- including $164,000 on donations to GOP candidates.

*** Where’s Mike Murphy? As students of 2008 will notice, Romney's inner circle is largely the same, though there is one big name missing: Mike Murphy. At this time before the 2008 cycle, he was an on-again, off-again, back-channel adviser. This time, he's very busy with Meg Whitman and looks like one decision Romney made was to do less back-channeling.

*** Looking out for the big guy: By the way, here’s a man-bites-dog story, courtesy of the Washington Post: The Democratic primary challenger to New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D) is campaigning on a message that Maloney has been too tough on Wall Street. "'We need to extend a hand rather than a fist' to Wall Street, [Reshma] Saujani tells the guests at the apartment. 'In New York, it's complicated because 35 percent of our revenue comes from the financial services industry. We need to have transparency and reform, but we also need to understand that . . . it's just as easy to go work in Singapore and London and Bangalore, and we can't make it so difficult to do business here that people will vote with their feet.'"

*** More midterm news: In Arizona, John McCain’s campaign is expected to ask J.D. Hayworth “to finally come clean” in disclosing how much money he was paid for that now-infamous get-government-grants infomercial… In California, TPM’s Bellantoni notes how Team Whitman is borrowing from Team Obama’s ’08 playbook… In Nevada, after Democrats re-posted Sharron Angle’s old Web site and after Angle’s campaign asked them to cease and desist, the NRSC has unveiled a fake Harry Reid Web site, “the Real Harry Reid.”

Countdown to AL run-off: 5 days
Countdown to GA primary: 12 days
Countdown to OK primary: 19 days
Countdown to KS and MO primaries: 26 days
Countdown to CO and CT primaries: 33 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 117 days

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