He often attempted to maximize the benefit of a journey. On the evening of May 26, he held a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in Las Vegas, gave a speech there the next morning promoting his stimulus bill, then headed to Los Angeles for another fundraiser. Mr. Obama won Nevada in 2008 by 11 percentage points, but the state went to President Bush in 2004 by just 3 percentage points.
Mr. Obama was on a tour of national parks with his family in August, but between stops at Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, he visited Grand Junction, Colo., for a town-hall meeting on health care. Mr. Bush carried Colorado in 2004; Mr. Obama won there in 2008.
One reason presidents travel frequently to battleground states is that a personal visit gives their best shot at positive coverage in local newspapers and on local television news broadcasts.
The coverage typically is coordinated by regional press officials in the White House, said Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, a political science professor at the University of North Texas, and is much more likely to be favorable.
“Presidents are always mindful of their re-election, so they strategically target states that they know will be in play and that have a large electoral prize,” Mr. Eshbaugh-Soha said. “These travels always lead to a good number of stories on the president and so presidents can benefit from more exposure. People at least want to know that the president is working hard, even if they do not agree with him.”
When Mr. Obama’s aides were looking for a place for the president to deliver an education speech on the anniversary of his election, they settled on Wisconsin.
The state Legislature was about to remove a legal barrier to using student test scores in evaluating teacher performance. That policy change, championed by Mr. Obama, would help Wisconsin qualify for a share of the $4.35 billion in “Race to the Top” stimulus program he was to announce in the speech.
But the audience of more than 600 at Madison’s Wright Middle School and the thousands more who saw media reports on the visit were valued for their potential to help Mr. Obama’s re-election chances, too. Wisconsin voters handily supported Mr. Obama in 2008. In 2004, they supported Democrat John Kerry by a single percentage point.