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Obama Makes Himself a Stranger in 10 Red States

Obama Makes Himself a Stranger in 10 Red States

By Erin McPike - May 10, 2011

After the midterm elections, the White House stressed that President Obama would be making a conscious effort to get outside the Beltway more often to get a feel for what was going on in the states.

And yet, when he has a speech to give or an issue to highlight by touring a facility of some kind or a school, the first place he turns is, if not Washington, D.C., then nearby Maryland or Virginia. Pennsylvania is a frequent destination for its proximity, as well. But in his victory address to the massive crowd at Chicago's Grant Park on Election Night 2008, Obama declared, "To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -- I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president, too."

Being everyone's president doesn't necessarily mean stopping by for a visit, however. This past Friday, he traveled to Indianapolis and chatted with potential 2012 GOP rival Mitch Daniels, Indiana's governor. But Obama won that red state three years ago.

Here's the more telling statistic: There are 11 states he has yet to visit as president, according to a recent analysis by McClatchy, and chances are slim he can make the 10 red states on that list competitive next year. (It's also unlikely he'll have any trouble holding onto the 11th one, Vermont.)

The 10 red states that haven't been on Obama's must-see list thus far: Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah. (The White House announced Tuesday that the president will visit Memphis, Tenn., on May 16 to deliver the commencement address at Booker T. Washington High School, the winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge.)

But political leaders in those states don't seem upset with Obama's absence, and most say they would welcome him if he came.

Dave Heineman, the Republican governor of Nebraska, said in an interview with RCP that he hopes Obama will visit all 50 states because, “as president, you represent all of the people.”

In 2008, Obama won one electoral vote -- that of the second congressional district -- in the Cornhusker State, contributing to its unique political positioning for Obama. (Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that allow for electoral votes to be split.)

Heineman added that if Obama were to visit, he’d want to show off what his state has been able to accomplish both in education and jobs, especially considering Nebraska has the second lowest unemployment rate in the nation: 4.2 percent.

Larry Grant, chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party and a former congressional candidate, said he understood the president's reluctance to pay a call -- "Idaho is not the biggest area of Democratic votes," he acknowledges. Still, he points to an Obama rally in his state three days before Super Tuesday in 2008, when he was competing for the Democratic presidential nomination against Hillary Rodham Clinton. His appearance at Boise State University drew about 15,000 people, or a 10th of the city's voting population.

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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