The Washington Times - February 11, 2009, 10:19AM



I was on the road yesterday with President Obama, who was in top salesman form in Florida.


He wasn’t selling himself the presidential candidate as he did for two years, instead offering his best pitch for the stimulus plan, which passed the Senate as he spoke.


The town hall in Fort Myers (and the one the day before in Elkhart, Indiana dubbed a “road trip” by Jon Stewart last night) were opportunities for Obama to be reminded of his connection with voters.


Covering him all that time on the trail, I got to know Obama’s style pretty well and he was clearly enjoying himself yesterday.


He tends to pull energy from the crowd, and when they are engaged and happy to see him, he performs better.


Here’s my story from today’s front page, which I have to admit I wrote most of while sitting on a dock with my feet in the water.


FORT MYERS, Fla. | President Obama on Tuesday for the first time staked his fledgling presidency on pulling the country from its economic crisis, promising dispirited Floridians that his stimulus plan will produce tangible results such as jobs and tuition credits or he’ll be ousted from office in 2012.

Mr. Obama — who earned a small victory when the Senate passed his $838 billion plan but then was hit with a big drop in the stock market — was on the campaign trail again, using a town-hall meeting and one of the best weapons in his arsenal: himself.

Mr. Obama engagingly pushed his plan, joking that he would pull from the best ideas “whether it comes from a Democrat or a Republican or a vegetarian,” acted as comforter in chief and, when asked about the country’s notorious impatience, he strayed from his standard answer that the crisis won’t be solved overnight.

“I expect to be judged by results and … I’m not going to make any excuses,” he said. “If stuff hasn’t worked and people don’t feel like I’ve led the country in the right direction, then — you’ll have a new president.”

But even after he cautioned people that they can vote him out of office, his nearly 2,000 fans at the town hall were already asking for four more years.

“Our economy will likely be measured in years, not weeks or months,” Mr. Obama said, and someone interrupted him with: “You have eight.”

The crowd at the Harborside Event Center erupted in laughter and cheers, and the president chuckled, “For our TV audience, somebody said I had eight — which we’re not clear about yet.”


Read the full piece here, and here’s some video I shot from the town hall.





The president will do another event today, visiting an infrastructure project in Northern Virginia with Gov. Tim Kaine, who also as chair of the DNC is pushing for the stimulus plan.


 Christina Bellantoni, White House correspondent,
The Washington Times

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