As a true-blue getaway, Martha's Vineyard bears fruit for Obama and Co.

A look at some of the vacation spots visited by the Obama family.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 28, 2010

On Sunday at 10:15 a.m., President Obama and his family will leave Martha's Vineyard after 10 days of vacation. During his stay, the president put on a bike helmet and rode through the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. He waited out the stormy weather with games of Scrabble with friends and trips to the town bookstore with the family. He played golf. And then some more golf. For the most part, his public appearances were limited to the links, where, for security purposes, he had to book not only his own tee time, but the ones before and after.

None of these recreations -- biking, board games, golfing -- are unique to Martha's Vineyard. And yet, the 87.5-square-mile island, with its Atlantic breezes, untrammeled dunes and small-town charm has established itself as the official getaway destination for Democratic presidents.

What's the draw for Democrats? Why "the Vineyard"?

"He enjoys the people and the beautiful place itself," said Bill Burton, a spokesman for the president. "There is great food, and it's a comfortable place with a lot of families with kids."

And for any president without pedigree, comfort you can rent!

Unlike George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush before him, and Ronald Reagan before him, Bill Clinton and Obama came to office without expansive bank accounts and fabulous family compounds.

According to the Martha's Vineyard Gazette, which has painstakingly covered the president's every move (Wednesday's dispatch: "Mr. Fitzgerald asked how the President's own game had gone. Mr. Obama said he had shot a bogey round."), the houses similar to the Blue Heron Farm, where the Obamas have stayed, rent for about $35,000 to $50,000 per week. That's steep. But it's also a lot cheaper than buying and maintaining a multimillion-dollar ranch or home by the sea.

Thomas Wallace, the owner of Wallace & Co. Sotheby's International Realty, which oversaw the rental of the home to the Obamas, would not discuss financial details but said that unlike the Clintons, who, he said, got their place as a "freebie" from individuals who offered up their homes, "every room is paid for."

"There are no favors," Wallace said. "Perceived or otherwise."

And although an especially brutal economic environment had led many critics of the president to second-guess his decision to decamp to the Vineyard's elite corners ("Obama Heads to Martha's Vineyard as New Jobless Claims Hit 500,000," read a FoxNation headline), do we really want the leader of the free world chillaxing on the Jersey Shore? Plus, Wallace said that for his island, at least, presidential visits were entirely good for business.

"The presidential visits have the obvious effect of putting the neighborhood on the map," said Wallace, who dropped that he, too, had been at the golf club on Friday where Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had shot a round of golf. As they came off the links, he said, the two seemed to have "certainly looked like they were having a good time."

The White House reporters who have pined for sightings of the president have had a harder time observing the allure of the island.

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