Say, where has Barack Obama been while polling numbers for Democrats have nosedived this summer? One member of the White House press corps asked Robert Gibbs this question, who giggled at the delivery and then insisted that Obama hasn’t gone AWOL from his position as nominal Democratic Party leader.  Greg Hengler grabs the exchange in this clip, in which Gibbs assures everyone that Obama will continue to defend the policies of this administration and his party:

Come on, now, that’s a little harsh, isn’t it?  Certainly, Obama has been happy to talk about issues except at those moments where he’s buying shrimp or otherwise engaged on vacation, which has been … well, most of August and a portion of July, too.  The only consistent voice out of the Obama administration has been Joe Biden’s, who’s selling “Recovery Summer” like it was a timeshare resort package in Bakersfield.  Even people inside the White House acknowledge that Obama has gone off the radar completely on the economy, or did until he shoehorned four paragraphs of platitudes on the economy into a war speech in his Oval Office address this week.

The problem for Obama is that he has become one of the driving factors behind the nosedive.  It’s no coincidence that fellow Democrats have been criticizing Obama and Nancy Pelosi in their ads in a futile attempt to distance themselves from party leadership.  Obama has become, in Time Magazine’s words, “Mr. Unpopular.”  The question isn’t why Obama has kept off the campaign trail this summer to shore up numbers for Democratic incumbents — it’s quantifying just how big of a drag Obama has become to their prospects for re-election.  Expect Obama to project an “above the fray” image for the next seven weeks to allow Democrats to change the subject away from the President in the White House to, er, the President who hasn’t been in the White House for almost two years.