Kay Hagan to avoid Obama during his visit to North Carolina, of course

The notable absence at Obama’s first trip outside the Beltway in this election year highlights a perennial quandary for embattled candidates and less-than-popular presidents. With a battle for control of the Senate looming and the president’s approval rating deflated, Democrats and the White House will spend much of this year grappling with whether their most vulnerable candidates will be helped or harmed by a visit from Obama and how to keep those candidates some distance — but not too far — from the president.

The balancing act is a familiar one. Both Republicans and Democrats have struggled with how to use — or carefully hide — a president while his party fights out midterm elections. Sitting presidents are unrivaled fundraisers and reliable base motivators, but can be divisive for campaigns aiming to court independent voters. Candidates regularly have to find ways to welcome Air Force One to their state, without carrying off the baggage of its passenger.

Hagan’s campaign said the senator would be in Washington on Wednesday because the Senate is in session, saying her decision had nothing to do with the president’s diminished popularity. The Democrat, facing her first election since winning in 2008’s Obama-led wave, has said she would be honored to have the president campaign for her.