The "Inside Politics" forecast: Michelle Obama's push to fire up the base

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Story highlights

  • Michelle Obama's busy fall travel schedule.
  • Speaker Boehner is taking a more aggressive role on the trail and in Washington.
  • How the issue of terrorism is changing several key Senate races.
Another big challenge facing President Barack Obama and some new twists on key 2014 dynamics and players surfaced during our weekly trip around the "Inside Politics" table.
1. POTUS is unwelcome but FLOTUS is in demand
Michelle -- not Barack -- is the Obama who will be racking up some miles in the seven-week sprint to Election Day.
Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post reports that the first lady's East Wing staff is pouring through campaign requests and filling her calendar with travel plans.
Michelle to save the Dems?
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"Michelle Obama is, in many ways, is the keeper of the Obama flame," said Henderson.
"They very much think that she is still someone that can fire up the base: African-Americans, Latinos and women."
FLOTUS stumped for Michelle Nunn this month, with the aim to help generate critical African-American turnout in Georgia.
Iowa is also on the schedule. The African-American population there is tiny, but there is a neck-and-neck Senate race, Michelle Obama loves the state, and the thinking is she can try to motivate younger voters who were critical to President Obama's wins but often sit out the midterms.
And, there will be more.
2. Speaker Boehner steps up
With the election seven weeks away, House Speaker John Boehner is taking a more aggressive role as a Republican strategist and spokesman.
Robert Costa of The Washington Post tells us Boehner is making a mark on domestic and foreign policy. He has an economic speech on the books and took a lead role this past week in shaping GOP reaction to the President's nationally televised address on the ISIS threat.
Next week, the speaker will be taking center stage to try to pass a government funding bill and get some kind of legislation passed to push Obama's strategy through Congress.
"I think Boehner has the political capital right now to do both," said Costa. "And with Eric Cantor gone, he's really becoming the face for the Republican Party ahead of the midterm elections."
3. The GOP's closing argument
The rise of terrorism as an issue is viewed as a potential plus for Republicans in key 2014 battlegrounds.
Josh Kraushaar of National Journal highlighted a handful of close Senate races where the GOP thinks the terrorism/security issue is a plus for their candidates.
GOP's 2014 closing theme
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One example is Kentucky, where Sen. Mitch McConnell highlights his role as a congressional leader on national security matters and portrays his opponent as inexperienced.
And Kraushaar notes in four other states with close Senate races -- Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa and New Hampshire -- the Republican candidates have military backgrounds.
4. A Democratic loss in Massachusetts may not end up as a GOP gain
New England has not been kind to the Republican Party in congressional races in recent years, but the GOP has several seats on its target list as it looks to expand its House majority.
But one of those opportunities became less likely this past week, according to several GOP strategists.
Democratic Rep. John Tierney lost his 6th Congressional District primary to Iraq war veteran Seth Moulton.
Republicans nominated Richard Tisei, a moderate former state legislator who narrowly lost to Tierney in 2012. That was a presidential cycle, when turnout is higher and Obama was winning big. The GOP hoped a rematch in this more GOP-leaning year might get them a pickup.
Now, Moulton is the Democratic candidate. As a newcomer to politics, he can't be tarred as a Washington insider, and his military service is viewed as a plus as terrorism concerns rise as an issue.
Tierney is a friend of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and so his loss didn't sit well with party leaders in Washington. But in the long run it could turn out to be a blessing in an otherwise tough midterm year for the Democrats.
5. Jobs, ISIS and now Ebola for the President's agenda
It's off to Atlanta this week for President Obama, who is scheduled to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He'll be there ratchet up the White House response to the Ebola crisis in Africa.
Julie Pace of The Associated Press reports the President will make the case that helping more is right for humanitarian and national security reasons.
"This is one of those times where we actually have to give the White House a little bit of credit for good management," said Pace. "They want to be prepared and be able to say that even in the middle of everything else that was going on, this is something the President was focusing on."