President Obama’s two-day bus tour: A district-by-district look

August 22, 2013

President Obama on Thursday kicked off a two-day swing through Pennsylvania and New York that he will use tout a plan that aims to make the cost of a college education more affordable.

Where specifically is Obama going? One way to look at the trip is through the lens of the congressional districts to which he is traveling. The president is headed though working-class region of districts represented by three Democrats and one Republican, which are home to a mix of small and large colleges and universities.

Obama's first stop Thursday was at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, which lies in the district of Rep. Brian Higgins (D), who joined the president at his speech. The White House sought to use SUNY Buffalo is an example of a school that provides a balance of quality and affordability.

Higgins's district is safe Democratic territory. Obama carried about 64 percent of the vote there and Higgins did even better, winning with about 75 percent.

(For a complete rundown of presidential election results by congressional district, check out this handy resource from Daily Kos Elections.)

The two neighboring districts -- where voters will see the coverage of Obama's trip -- are represented by Republican Reps. Chris Collins and Tom Reed, who both won close races in 2012. Neither seat is among the most endangered for the GOP this cycle, but it's worth noting that Reed's district split the vote between Obama and Mitt Romney pretty evenly. Still, he is favored to hold his seat.

Obama will stop at a high school in Syracuse later Thursday, where he will be in the district of Rep. Dan Maffei (D), in another working-class area. Politically, Maffei's 2014 race is in the realm of potentially competitive contests, but remains a reach for Republicans. Obama won 57 percent there; Maffei lagged behind him, but still won with 48 percent.

Friday morning, Obama will speak at Binghamton University, where he will be joined by Rep. Richard Hanna (R), who won easily in 2012. It's worth keeping in mind there is a a political imperative for Hanna to show a stroke of bipartisanship -- his district was evenly split between Obama and Romney in 2012.

Obama's final stop will be Lackawanna College in Scranton, where he will be joined by Vice President Biden, who was born in Scranton and was deployed as a key campaigner in working-class areas in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) is the congressman in Scranton, and he easily won the very Democratic district in 2012.

Obama intends to build support for a plan to create a ratings system that evaluates colleges on metrics such as tuition, graduation rates and the debt load of graduates, toward a goal of identifying and rewarding schools that offer "value."

Neither of New York's Democratic senators will be joining Obama on his swing through Western and Central New York, their offices said. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are spending time with their families, according to spokespeople. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) met Obama in Buffalo, but won't be partaking in the rest of the trip.

Ed O'Keefe contributed to this story.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Chris Cillizza · August 22, 2013