By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Whether he was wolfing down a Hell-Burger, savoring some frozen custard or watching the Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls, almost all of the president's visits to local haunts have had one thing in common: They haven't been in Maryland.
Aside from two trips to Bethesda for events related to his daughter's school, Obama has not spent much time in poor, forgotten Maryland -- where he captured a measly 62 percent of the vote in November.
No Ledo pizza. No National Harbor. No Strathmore. No nothing.
"What's wrong with Maryland?" a miffed Allan Warburton, 47, of White Oak asked Thursday.
"If he lands at Andrews [Air Force Base], I'm pretty sure he has to drive through Maryland to get to the White House," Warburton, a hotel prep cook, noted while waiting for a bus in Silver Spring. "If he wants to come to a restaurant, come here!"
Obama's new house happens to be in the District, so maybe it's not surprising that most of his nights out have been there. But if he is favoring the Virginia 'burbs over Maryland's during his leisure time, it might be because of an old paradox of politics: The places that love a candidate the most often get the least love. For the savvy campaigner, the choice between a trip over the Potomac River to swing state Virginia -- in the midst of a governor's race -- and a drive to reliably blue Maryland might not be a choice at all.
Thus, Old Line Staters don't get to enjoy viral images of 44 out and about in their neighborhoods, such as when he asked for "a Dijon mustard" on his burger in Arlington County.
Many in Maryland say the commander in chief is missing out.
"I would put my pizza up against any of his pizzas in Chicago," said Tommy Marcos Jr., co-owner of the famed Ledo Restaurant in Adelphi, which has been serving up the same square pizza, with its flaky, thin crust, sweet sauce and salty provolone cheese for more than 50 years.
"It'd be nice to see him come out here," said Marcos, 53, of Bowie. "I think it would reinvigorate the area."
Sean Mussenden, 32, said Obama might enjoy bustling downtown Silver Spring -- a haven for diverse cuisine, shopping and independent films. But he wasn't too shocked at the lack of attention so far.
"There's a long tradition of Democratic politicians not coming to Maryland, with the exception of coming to Montgomery County and raising money," he said.
Mussenden, who works at the University of Maryland, said he is willing to cut the new chief executive some slack -- for now.
"If he's not out here by the end of his first term, and he's going everywhere else," he said, "I might feel kind of slighted."