This is the bridge to somewhere.
The Brent Spence Bridge spans the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Covington, Ky. In terms of political clout, you can’t do much better than this bridge: It connects the home states of the most powerful Republicans in the nation: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
So perhaps it is not a coincidence that the White House says President Obama will make the Brent Spence Bridge the next stop on his tour to sell the American Jobs Act to the public.
On Thursday, Obama will appear at the bridge to make the case for “much-needed investments in infrastructure projects across the country” that can “put more Americans back to work,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
He added that the bridge, on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America, is considered “functionally obsolete” because of its need for repairs.
Carney insisted that no politics were involved in the location selection, even as Obama tries to win the battle for public opinion in his fight with Republicans over the $447 billion jobs package. The legislative bill, which Obama sent to Congress on Monday, includes a mix of tax cuts, infrastructure spending and direct aid to state and local governments.
“It’s a bridge that is one we can get to and highlight from the White House on a day trip that absolutely illustrates the problem we have with infrastructure in this country — roads, bridges and other forms of infrastructure,” Carney said, after announcing the trip at his daily briefing Thursday.
In his speeches on the jobs tour, Obama regularly tells his audiences that Republicans are playing politics with the economy, hoping to delay any action until after the November 2012 election.
“A faction in Washington may be content to wait until the next election to do anything, but I’ve got news for them: The next election is 14 months away,” Obama said during a stop Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., where he addressed students at North Carolina State University. “And the American people don’t have the luxury to wait that long.”
Yet it is Obama who has strategically scheduled his jobs tour in a very political way.
His first stop was Richmond, Va., the home district of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R), Obama’s chief nemesis in the debt ceiling fight. Then he went to Columbus, Ohio, to tour a school on Tuesday, making his first stop in Boehner’s state. On Wednesday, Obama was in Apex and Raleigh, N.C., his third visit in a row to a crucial electoral swing state.
Obama carried Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina in 2008, but George W. Bush carried them in 2004. His stops in those states this month are a tacit acknowledgment that his jobs package is as much a political gambit as a policy proposal.
At Thursday’s briefing, a reporter compared Obama’s trip to the Brent Spence Bridge to a baseball pitcher sending a fastball near a batter’s chin, to scare him and make him less aggressive at the plate.
“It’s going to be interpreted. . . as sort of a push-back, chin-music,” the reporter told Carney.
The press secretary responded: “I don’t think it’s a mystery. . . that we are out there, loudly and with great intensity, arguing that we in Washington need to do the bidding of the American people and take action on the economy. . . . So, if you’re asking me if, by going to this bridge, are we hoping to draw some attention to this urgent need, the answer is, unequivocally, yes.”
The Speaker’s office did not comment Thursday.
But Brittany Bramell, a spokeswoman for Boehner’s personal office in Ohio, said in a statement: “Speaker Boehner has long supported repairing the Brent Spence Bridge and is pleased the president is bringing additional attention to the need for it to be improved and eventually replaced.”