Obama has involved himself in the first election since he won the grand prize last November.
Tomorrow, Jim Tedisco, the Republican, takes on Scott Murphy, the Democrat, in the NY-20 congressional special election to replace Sen. Gillibrand. NY-20 is a swing district. While there are more registered Republicans, Gillibrand, a Dem, has won the past two elections and Obama won by 3 points.
So, even without Obama's involvement, one could say this is the first true gauging of the Obama presidency.
But what is curious about this race is the President's hesitancy to join the fray until late.
His involvement includes only one television ad recently released over the weekend(with a surprisingly small ad-buy), and an e-mail to his network of supporters.
The reasons for his tardiness could be many, such as wanting to hold off until he was confident in a Murphy win, and in turn able to consider the Democrat's victory an exclamation point to his agenda so far.
Or, polling could state that Obama isn't popular among independents right now, and strategists decided it was best to hold off on committing the President's political capital. That way if they lose they can try to spin it as "he never put his full strength behind the campaign due to his focus on the White House agenda".
It could be any number of things, all of which are impossible to predict without more information, such as internal poll numbers.
But at the end of the day, whether the President likes it or not, this special congressional election is a referendum on him -- no matter how he tries to spin it.
Does that mean it's as big a deal as the 2010 midterms? Oh hellllllll no. But it will be a story in the mainstream media and it will be framed around the status of Obama's political capital.
Unfortunately, based on the latest public poll numbers -- that's good news for Obama.