Rev up Air Force One, it’s time for another presidential trip. Following a quick hop to Kentucky on Thursday, President Obama is bound for Utah, his destinations including Salt Lake City and Hill Air Force Base, where he’ll “deliver remarks on the economy.” Details from the White House are few. The folks out that way are taking cryptic note of the visit.
“Utah will become the second-to-last state the president has visited while in office. It’s about time. If you look at election numbers, it’s not hard to see why it’s taken so long. In 2012 Obama received less than 25 percent of the Utah vote, the lowest percentage of any state, when he ran against Utah’s adopted favorite son, Mitt Romney,” says a Salt Lake Tribune editorial, which notes that 26,000 people currently work at Hill AFB, contributing an annual $3.3 billion to the state.
“The visit to Utah’s largest military installation comes as the president is being challenged by Republicans in Congress to get his hawk on. Obama’s 2016 budget request would raise Pentagon expenditures to about $561 billion. But many Republican lawmakers, citing tensions in the Middle East and Ukraine, would like to see even more, and they are willing to cut domestic programs to get it,” the editorial continues.
There is a complicated backdrop. Among other things, Sen. Orrin Hatch is eyeing an expansion of the Utah Test and Training Range by 700,000 acres to accommodate the fierce and remarkable fighter jets at Hill, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Needless to say, environmental groups are concerned the plan could compromise pristine areas of wilderness. Some observers also wonder if Mr. Obama will meet with Mormon church leaders during his visit, as 11 other presidents have done before him, according to research by Utah historian Ronald Fox.
Mr. Obama last visited Utah as a presidential hopeful in 2007, back when Hillary Clinton was still the favorite for the 2008 Democratic nomination. He repeated “his mantras of hope and change,” promised a more inclusive America and zeroed in on Clinton, labeling her as a Washington insider who is beholden to lobbyists,” the editorial recalls. “Here’s betting he doesn’t say that again.”
South Dakota, incidentally, is the only other state the president has not visited.