The Washington Times - February 10, 2009, 09:42AM

Ft. Myers, Fla. - The press charter that jumps ahead of Air Force One just touched down here in advance of President Obama’s scheduled town hall on the economy.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, is the biggest “get” for Obama. He will introduce the president at the town hall and talk about why he supports the roughly $830 billion stimulus plan expected to pass the Senate today. 



Also on board Air Force One with the president are members of Congress - all Democrats. Yesterday, he flew with several Republicans and Democrats to Indiana.

The members of Congress traveling are:

Robert Wexler
Kendrick Meek
Suzanne Kosmas
Ron Klein
Alan Grayson
Kathy Castor
Corrine Brown
Debbie Wasserman-Schwartz
Allen Boyd

A well-placed Democratic leadership aide made the point to me that most House Republicans will never vote for the stimulus - not because of the plan itself or to shrug off bipartisanship but because they are afraid of facing a GOP primary.

The House Republicans these days come from heavily GOP districts, and a primary challenge isn’t too far fetched. The House Democrats, on the other hand, now sit in most of the swing district seats.

The aide pointed to Crist’s presence on the trail today as evidence the stimulus does have bipartisan support, “no matter what Washington Republicans say.”

The town hall, following one Obama held yesterday in Indiana, begins at 12:05. POTUS will give a brief speech and then take questions. 

According to the White House, the unemployment rate has jumped from 6 percent to 10 percent since last year in Ft. Myers.

The area also has been hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis.

Jon Ward blogged last night that Ft. Myers is conservative, and surrounding Lee County backed Republican presidential candidate John McCain 54 percent to Obama’s 44 percent.

Only press who are part of today’s travel pool fly on Air Force One, so the rest of us fly in a charter that arrived in 72-degree temperatures just as Obama leaves the White House.

Our Miami Air charter has a name painted in cursive below the cockpit - Diane.

While we were waiting at Andrews Air Force base this morning, a staffer happily observed that “Obama reaction” to the A-Rod steroid scandal was the No. 2 story on ESPN.


 Christina Bellantoni, White House correspondent,
The Washington Times

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