After 10 days off the grid on vacation in Hawaii, President Obama returned to Washington on Tuesday morning and is scheduled to dive right into the prime order of business for 2012: his re-election effort.
White House aides insist that the president is focused on “task at hand,” as deputy press secretary Josh Earnest put it last week, referring to governing and, first and foremost, improving the sluggish economy. Obama is scheduled to appear at a high school in Cleveland on Wednesday. resuming the national jobs tour that defined his second half of 2011.
But with the national media spotlight on Republican presidential candidates in Iowa on Tuesday, Obama is hardly in a position to ignore the campaign altogether. Rather, he plans to address supporters Tuesday night through a live Internet video feed from the Capitol Hilton into Democratic caucuses in Iowa. His remarks will begin at 8:15 p.m., and he will take a couple of questions from the caucus-goers, aides said.
Obama’s campaign team knows Iowa well. He trounced Hillary Rodham Clinton there in 2009, setting off his march to the Democratic nomination. With a noncompetitive primary contest this year, Obama aides say they are using the caucuses to expand on their November-focused campaign apparatus. The Obama campaign, which has 20 paid employees and eight offices in Iowa, has held 1,200 grassroots events, including as training seminars, phone banks and house parties, and made 350,000 phone calls to supporters, an aide said.
“In the midst of a competitive Republican primary, you can anticipate that the president will continue to be visible, that he’ll continue to have a pretty aggressive travel schedule outside of Washington,” Earnest said.
Obama’s jobs tour already has taken on many of the hallmarks of a political campaign, focused largely on electoral swing states such as Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The president also has been issuing a series of small-scale economic initiatives as part of the administration’s “we can’t wait” program--actions that don’t require congressional approval.
Earnest said Obama would continue to roll out similar initiatives in the coming weeks, to keep voters focused on his message that he is trying to find ways to help the middle class and bridge a growing income gap.
“That will be in pretty stark contrast to Republican candidates that will be focused on creative ways to say bad things about their opponents for the presidency,” Earnest said.