Skip to content

The Rose Garden: The New President Has Gifts, Will Travel

President Barack Obama has been in office only a couple of months, and already he has embarked on the permanent campaign. Obama has swept through Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Ohio — not to mention a foray into nearby Virginia — all prize pieces of the electoral majority that he must assemble in 2012.

[IMGCAP(1)]Oh, shock us some more!

The truth is, when it comes to freshman-year political travel, Obama is a relative slacker. The president has had about a dozen outside-the-Beltway events in eight states, seven of which are battleground states.

By this point in 2001, Karl Rove had already dispatched former President George W. Bush to about twice as many out-of-town events in 18 states, at least 11 of which would be critical for his re-election.

On Feb. 20, 2001, Bush made what looked a lot like an attempt to relive the

campaign that had ended just three and a half months before, racing through Missouri, Tennessee and Ohio — which would become his third home after Texas and Washington, D.C. Each were states decided by 4 or fewer points in his 2000 contest with former Vice President Al Gore.

In 2001, Bush was back on the trail from Feb. 28 to March 1, zipping through Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas and Georgia. Other assorted appearances included events in West Virginia, Louisiana and Maine — states decided by 8 or fewer points in 2000.

Obama has lodged swing-state appearances so far in Indiana, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina and Ohio.

But Obama has one thing that Bush lacked as he headed out into the hinterland early in his presidency. It’s touching, and it’s sweet. This month, at every stop that he has made, the president has brought … a gift.

Not the silly DVDs that he shoved at Gordon Brown when the British prime minister visited earlier this month. No, we’re talking about millions of dollars from the stimulus bill that Congress approved in February.

This is not to suggest that funding decisions on the stimulus are being made based on how they can serve Obama politically. But the president certainly isn’t shying away from gaining maximum publicity from the project awards.

Obama on March 6 arrived in the city of Columbus in the critical swing state of Ohio with money for police, teachers and firefighters.

“These jobs and the jobs of so many other police officers and teachers and firefighters all across Ohio will now be saved because of this recovery plan, a plan that will also create jobs in every corner of this state,— Obama said.

He went on to describe more than $1 billion in the stimulus for Ohio to provide for housing, roads and bridges, as well as mass transit and even some cleaner burning buses.

Last Thursday, he was in California, which, though not exactly a swing state, is fertile ground for fundraising and the type of grass-roots support that Obama wants to line up behind his legislative proposals.

He arrived at the Edison Electric Vehicle Technical Center in Pomona, Calif., with a very special present:

“Because these cars of tomorrow require batteries of tomorrow, I’m announcing that the Department of Energy is launching a $2 billion competitive grant program under the Recovery Act that will spark the manufacturing of the batteries and parts that run these cars, that will allow for the upgrading of factories that will produce them and, in the process, create thousands of jobs in facilities like this one, all across America,— he declared to enthusiastic applause.

Later the same day, he was in Los Angeles with more stuff.

“A new hospital will be built at Camp Pendleton that will give our service men and women the care they deserve,— he declared to a wildly supportive crowd at a “town hall— meeting in Costa Mesa, Calif.

But there was more.

“Over in Inglewood, the police department is planning to expand its staff by 30 people. Orange County is hoping to add a new lane on SR-91 — creating about 2,000 jobs and easing congestion in the process. These are just a few of the 396,000 jobs we will create or save in California,— Obama said.

No doubt there are more goodies and more trips to battleground states to come. Among the upcoming handouts? Diplomas.

On May 13, the president will give the commencement address at Arizona State University in Tempe. Four days later, he will be on hand for the graduation at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

And when Obama wins his second term, he might just do a victory lap in that new lane on SR-91.

Recent Stories

Reproductive policy fights renew the focus on IVF

Capitol Lens | ‘The Eyes of History’

Supreme Court to hear cross-state pollution case

McConnell has a good week in battle to retake Senate majority

Trump’s interest in national abortion ban fires up both sides

‘Bad performance art’ — Congressional Hits and Misses