- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2012

After three days of claiming to ignore a parade of Republicans bashing his record, President Obama will take to the road Friday for five straight days of campaigning in battleground states on the way to accepting his renomination at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., next Thursday.

The president said his main goal on the tour, and in the final two months of the campaign, is to persuade voters he is concentrating on the economy even though the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high.

“I want to make sure that people understand that I’ve got a focus on growing this economy, not growing the public sector, but doing enough to ensure that we’ve got the best workers in the world, we’ve got the best technology in the world, and we’re competitive in the 21st century,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with Time magazine published Thursday.

The president will travel first to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, on Friday to meet with troops. It’s ostensibly for a roundtable discussion with soldiers in a non-swing state, but the visit will also serve as a reminder that the president kept his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq. Troops from Fort Bliss were among the last to serve in a combat role in Iraq.

While at the military base, Mr. Obama is also expected to talk about the looming budget cuts that would hit defense spending and domestic programs under a deficit-reduction agreement reached last year between the president and congressional Republicans. Those mandatory cuts will begin to take effect in January unless lawmakers devise an alternative.

On Saturday, Mr. Obama will campaign in Iowa, where his lead in polls over GOP nominee Mitt Romney has shrunk to a statistical tie in recent weeks. On Sunday, the president will attend a campaign rally in Colorado, before visiting two cities in Ohio on Labor Day. And on Tuesday, he will travel to Norfolk, Va., for a campaign event before arriving at the Democratic convention on Wednesday.

By visiting these battleground states, Obama campaign officials hope the president will reclaim the media spotlight from this week’s Republican convention, which concluded Thursday night. The Obama campaign is also seeking to create some political momentum heading into the Democrats’ gathering in Charlotte, as Mr. Obama’s job-approval rating has plummeted again to the low 40-percent range.

White House officials said Mr. Obama studiously avoided watching the Republican convention on TV this week, as speaker after speaker attacked his policies and leadership as failures. First lady Michelle Obama made a point of disclosing that she, too, ignored the GOP gathering. But both of them urged supporters to watch the Republican convention to understand the choice facing voters in November.

Noting that Mr. Romney and his allies want to repeal “Obamacare,” the president’s signature health care law, Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod told supporters in an email Thursday that the choice facing voters is stark.

“If the president loses, Republicans are guaranteeing those [health care] protections will be gone with him,” Mr. Axelrod said. “You can make sure that doesn’t happen. Donate $5 or more” before Friday’s deadline for reporting contributions to the Federal Election Commission.

It’s no accident that the cities on Mr. Obama’s pre-convention tour are mostly doing better than the rest of the country. With the exception of El Paso, which has unemployment rate of 10.1 percent, the president will stop in cities that all have jobless rates lower than the national average of 8.3 percent. Unemployment rates in Des Moines and Sioux City, Iowa, in July were 5.1 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. The jobless rate in Boulder, Colo., is 6.5 percent. Toledo, Ohio, home to the auto manufacturing industry that Mr. Obama bailed out, has a jobless rate of 8.1 percent, while Cleveland’s rate is 7.3 percent.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden also will highlight the auto industry’s recovery Friday with a visit to Lordstown in northeast Ohio. General Motors recently announced plans to invest $220 million at its Lordstown plant to produce the next generation of the Chevrolet Cruze.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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