OBAMA TO HIT THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL IN MASSACHUSETTS…. How serious is the threat of Massachusetts electing a far-right Republican to the Senate next week? Serious enough to send President Obama to the state to try to prevent it.

President Barack Obama will travel to Massachusetts to campaign with state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) on Sunday, a sign of the import the White House is attaching to the Senate special election race that could determine the fate of the Administration’s health care bill.

The Obama visit is the clearest signal yet that the race, which was once expected to be a cakewalk for Coakley, has turned into a toss up with just four days of campaigning before ballots are cast on Tuesday. […]

In dispatching the President to the Bay State, Democratic strategists are hoping to energize their party’s base, which, to date, has been largely apathetic about the race generally and Coakley’s candidacy specifically. Obama, on Friday, also recorded an automated phone call as well in an effort to gin up turnout for Coakley.

Rahm Emanuel reportedly started reaching out to party leaders in Massachusetts this week, asking if a presidential visit was necessary. We now know what he heard in response.

There is, of course, a political risk involved in having Obama, who remains a popular figure in Massachusetts, hit the campaign trail in support of a struggling candidate — if Coakley loses after a presidential visit, it makes Obama look bad, and may suggest to other Dems that the president can’t save them if they run into electoral trouble.

But the risks associated with a Coakley defeat are far more serious — thanks to Republican obstructionism, a GOP victory on Tuesday would effectively end legislative progress for the rest of the year. After all, Dems would “only” have 59 votes, and because the Senate is broken, 41 members trump 59.

Time will tell if the president is able to make a difference, but the recent trajectory suggests Coakley needs something to motivate Democrats — the campaign’s internal polling, which showed Coakley up by a few points earlier this week now show her trailing by four points.

It’s also worth emphasizing that there may be some misconceptions about GOP nominee Scott Brown. Massachusetts Republicans, after all, have a reputation for being relatively moderate on key issues, and it’s possible that some voters think Brown may be more of an Olympia-Snowe-like senator, caucusing with the opposition party but willing to engage with the majority.

That’s clearly not the case. Brown is surprisingly conservative — he supports torture, opposes Wall Street accountability, supports more tax cuts for the wealthy, supports restrictions on abortion rights, opposes economic recovery efforts, opposes modest health care reform efforts, and doubts that global climate change is the result of human activity.

Brown doesn’t intend to go to the Senate to play a constructive role in solving problems; he intends to go the Senate to push the Bush/Cheney agenda. That’s not spin or rhetoric — that’s what he’s effectively promised the voters of Massachusetts.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.