File: Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

When President Obama touched down in North Carolina Wednesday, embattled Sen. Kay Hagan (D) wasn’t on the tarmac to greet him.  Hagan, one of the most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection this cycle, stayed in Washington for Senate votes, an aide said.

Hagan has made the extension of unemployment benefits one of the centerpieces of her jobs-focused campaign, tweeting out on Monday: “6 months after #NCGA cut off unemployment aid, many NCians can’t find #jobs. RT to support Kay’s work to #RenewUI

The bill, currently stalled in the Senate, includes a Hagan provision that would restart the unemployment benefits for workers in North Carolina who lost theirs this summer after lawmakers ended the extension.

Obama isn’t exactly Mr. Popular in North Carolina, a state that he won by a razor thin margin in 2008, and then lost in 2012.  During his Wednesday visit, he plans to promote his manufacturing agenda.

Hagan, like the handful of red state Democrats up for re-election, is on a political tightrope when it comes to Obama.  His brand is certainly damaged and his approval ratings, never high in red states, are at one of the lowest points in his presidency.  Yet Obama still remains popular among African Americans and Latinos, and Hagan will need those voters to show up for her in large 2008 levels if she is to pull out a win.

“Sometimes it’s pretty clear, it’s like the ‘I’m washing my hair excuse,’ or you have other vague engagements.  This is maybe more like she is trying to be a Senator.  But it’s a little hard to tell,” said Steve Green, a political science professor at North Carolina State University.  “If she felt that it was going to be a huge political benefit, she would find a way to be there, so there is probably some ambivalence there.”

Her Republican challengers have associated Hagan with Obama in a blitz of television ads, linking her to the controversial Affordable Care Act. Conservative group Americans for Prosperity is spending $1.4 million in the state on anti-Hagan ads.

A recent poll from a left-leaning firm shows Hagan in a dead heat with possible opponents, among them Thom Tillis, who is speaker of the state House.  She had been up by double digits.

Update: Like clockwork, Americans For Prosperity released a web ad linking Hagan to Obama and the Affordable Care Act, and claiming that she was hiding out in Washington: