President Barack Obama’s Jan. 22 trip to Lorain County, Ohio, will end an unusual two-and-a-half-month stretch in which he rarely touched down in the battleground states that will decide control of Congress later this year — and his own re-election in 2012.
The Ohio trip is not officially intended as political travel and has been billed as “the next stop on the White House to Main Street tour.— But Obama has been tending carefully to swing states such as Ohio, which he has already visited several times since being elected president. Obama defeated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by just 2.5 points in the state during the presidential election.
In fact, the president has rarely traveled at all in the Lower 48 since a Nov. 4 trip to Madison, Wis. He touched down for an evening visit to speak at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Dec. 1 and traveled in Pennsylvania on Dec. 4, according to data compiled by Mark Knoller of CBS, who chronicles presidential travel and fundraising.
Obama has not attended any fundraisers since he raked in $1.5 million at events for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Miami on Oct. 26. He also held an Oct. 23 fundraiser for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who announced Wednesday that he is retiring.
The events capped a busy October of campaigning and fundraising by the president leading up to the Nov. 3 gubernatorial and House special elections.
But with Senate Democrats facing their most perilous political moment in years, Obama has not yet scheduled any future appearances or fundraising events to try to assist the caucus’ embattled members.
“The election is 10 months away and there’s nothing on the books,— said one knowledgeable source. “There’s no direct mail, there’s no events, there’s no fundraising.—
The White House said the president intends to hit the trail for Democratic Senators, as he has in the past.
“The president has already done two joint DSCC fundraisers, campaigned for incumbent Senators and will of course continue to work for Senate Democrats this year,— White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said.
A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman said the relationship with the White House is good.
“We have a good, ongoing relationship with the White House and we understand the challenges they face, and they’ve been very helpful already,— DSCC spokesman Eric Schultz said. “We look forward to working with them.—
A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declined to comment on whether Obama was slated at this point to do any political work for House candidates.
“The DCCC appreciates everything the White House has already done and continues to do for House Democrats in the lead-up to the midterms,— DCCC National Press Secretary Ryan Rudominer said.
Obama aides explain the president’s relatively lean recent domestic travel schedule by noting he has been in Washington attending to business. “There have been a number of priorities on his plate, like health care and financial reform,— said one senior White House official. He also took an 11-day vacation in Hawaii that began Christmas Eve.
And with the president now directly involved in health care bill negotiations and seeing lawmakers on an almost daily basis, the president this week is keeping close to the office.
Obama’s travel contrasts markedly with that of former President George W. Bush during a similar period from 2001 to 2002. Bush hit no fewer than eight presidential battleground states — beginning an especially heavy travel period right after the New Year — and stopped off in eight other states as well.
White House aides suggest the Jan. 22 trip will herald a period when the president will start to step up his domestic travel. “The president loves to get out in the states and will continue doing so in the coming months,— the senior official said.
The trip to Ohio does not appear intended to benefit any lawmakers. Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), who represents the district, holds a safely Democratic seat, and it is not clear who will be the Democratic candidate in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich.