“Bruce Bailey” for “governor of Iowa”

With control of the Senate at stake, Barack Obama can’t quite stand the thought of remaining on the sidelines. This, perhaps, is why he keeps injecting himself into the race by telling people that his policies are on the ballot and that endangered Democratic incumbents are “folks who vote with me.”

Obama’s desire to participate may also explain why Michelle Obama went to Iowa not long ago to campaign for Rep. Bruce Braley, an inept candidate who, by some accounts, is trailing Republican Joni Ernst in each of the state’s congressional districts including the one he represents.

The First Lady’s visit didn’t go well, though. She called the Democratic Senate nominee “Bruce Bailey” and referred to him as a Marine veteran, even though Braley never served in the Corps.

Michelle is an amateur politician. Before President Obama’s presidency sank, she was a natural at stirring up friendly crowds with rants on behalf of her husband. This skill doesn’t easily translate into boosting the candidacy of strangers. In short, her mistakes, though embarrassing, were excusable.

By contrast, Obama’s press operation is staffed by professionals. Yet it too can’t do right by Braley. Yesterday, it released via email a transcript of Michelle Obama’s appearance in Iowa on behalf Braley. Unfortunately for the beleaguered candidate, the subject line of the e-mail referred to him as the “Democratic candidate for governor.”

The White House’s subliminal message seems to be: Bruce Bailey, won’t you please come home.

Senate Democrats aren’t amused. One senior aide told the National Journal that “the ineptitude of the White House political operation has sunk from annoying to embarrassing.” Another Senate official told the Washington Post that Obama’s comments thrusting himself into the election were “not devised with any input from Senate leadership.” No kidding.

To drive home the point, Senate Democrats are complaining that the White House political team is behaving like a junior varsity operation. My take is that, like their narcissistic boss, the White House operatives are geniuses when Obama’s electoral skin is at stake and bunglers when the fate of other Democrats is on the line.