OBAMA ON THE TRAIL…. After a town-hall event in Wisconsin last week, I noted that President Obama “appears to be in campaign mode.”

From here on out, I think we can drop the “appeared.” The president was in Las Vegas yesterday, for example, rallying support — and raising money — for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). We got to hear a little bit about Obama’s thoughts on Reid’s challenger, extremist Sharron Angle (R).

“…Harry Reid’s opponent doesn’t just believe in these old, worn-out theories. On a lot of these issues, she favors an approach that’s even more extreme than the Republicans we got in Washington. That’s saying something.

“I mean, she wants to phase out and privatize Social Security and Medicare. Phase out and privatize them. Wants to eliminate our investment in clean energy. Wants to eliminate the federal investment in our children’s educations.

“Said the answer to the BP oil spill is to deregulate the oil industry. I’m not making this up. Harry, am I making this up? I know some of you are saying, ‘No, she didn’t really say that.’ She said it. She said that if only there were fewer rules and safeguards, then BP would have been more careful about their drilling.”

The president went on to talk about the $20 billion victims’ fund for the Gulf Coast, and Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) apology to BP. Without mentioning Angle by name, Obama explained, “Harry’s opponent, she agreed with this guy. She called the compensation we’re providing ‘a slush fund.’ To compensate fishermen and compensate shrimpers and compensate small restaurant owners. Now, a few hours later, her campaign puts out a memo saying, well, she didn’t mean that. They said there was some ‘confusion.’ And I’m sure she meant ‘slush fund’ in the nicest possible way.”

Earlier in the day, the president was in Kansas City, Missouri, hoping to give a boost to Robin Carnahan in Missouri’s very close Senate race. In addition to highlighting Barton’s BP apology, John Boehner’s “an ant” analogy, and Republicans’ awful record on fiscal responsibility, Obama made the campaign message of the next four months abundantly clear: “[T]he last thing we should do is go back to the very ideas that got us into this mess in the first place.”

“Some of the same folks in the other party whose policies gave us the economic crisis are now looking for another chance to lead. They spent nearly a decade driving the economy into the ditch, and now they’re asking for the car keys back. They can’t have them back. They don’t know how to drive. Don’t know how to drive, drive in the wrong direction, get us stuck…. So we already know how this story ends. We don’t have to guess how the other party will govern because we’re still living with the results from the last time they governed. […]

“Despite the growing burdens on middle-class families struggling to send their kids to college, Robin’s opponent and almost all our friends in the other party voted against a law that provides billions of dollars that were going to financial institutions, senseless subsidies, and now will be going to young people for scholarships — billions of dollars for student loans, paid for because we’re eliminating subsidies that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Nearly a million more students from working families will have access to financial aid, access to college, because of what we did. The other side said no.

“They said no to laws that we passed to stop insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions. They said no to requiring women to get equal pay for equal work. They said no to extended unemployment insurance for folks who desperately needed help. They said no to holding oil companies accountable when they bring on catastrophe.

“You may have read the top Republican on the House Energy Committee, Mr. Barton, publicly apologizing to BP after we compelled them to set aside $20 billion to pay for the folks who have suffered as a consequence of the oil spill. Does anybody here think BP should get an apology?”

And to think, unless the economy starts improving very quickly, and/or Democrats start pushing some ambitious new job-creation measures, all of this may fall on deaf ears.

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.