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Emailing John Harwood of the New York Times

John Harwood: Dissent Festers in States That Obama Seems to Have Forgotten:

Mr. Obama has not given North Dakota his time. It is one of six states he has not visited as president, along with South Dakota, Arkansas, Idaho, South Carolina and Utah. He has gone just once to Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming. Mr. Obama’s near-complete absence from more than 25 percent of the states, from which he is politically estranged, is no surprise, reflecting routine cost-benefit calculations of the modern presidency. But in a country splintered by partisanship and race, it may have consequences…. Mr. Obama burst onto the national stage as a bridge-builder whose biracial ancestry spanned the white Kansas heartland and emerging minority communities. His 2004 Democratic convention speech gained moral force by scorning the fact that “pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.”… As Mr. Obama’s travel shows, his White House has sliced and diced as finely as any….

Mr. Bush’s campaign strategist Matthew Dowd… met with the candidate Barack Obama and told him, Mr. Dowd said, “I hope you’re going to be the president of the country, not just leader of your party.” Mr. Dowd says Mr. Obama’s engagement with adversaries in and out of Washington has been too narrowly focused, “about a transaction and not about a relationship.” He chided Mr. Obama as giving short shrift to bridge-building when the president summoned him for advice after Democrats’ midterm election defeat in 2010. “Why haven’t you used the social power of the presidency to do that?” Mr. Dowd recalled asking Mr. Obama. “He didn’t push back all that strongly, because he acknowledged he could have done a better job.”…

The sense of disappointment some feel extends beyond inattention to staunch opponents. Mr. Obama has not, for instance, traveled as president to the overwhelmingly poor, black Mississippi Delta, either…. Just months into his second term, Mr. Obama has time to elevate the unifying themes that propelled his initial emergence. Mr. Clinton, who valued presidential travel as a symbol of outreach, did not touch every state until he visited Nebraska six weeks before leaving office.

Brad DeLong: How many states did George W. Bush visit in his first term (he visited 49, all except Vermont in two terms)? Bill Clinton (he visited all 50 in two terms)? George H.W. Bush, I know, visited 49--all except Vermont. How many did Ronald Reagan visit in his first term (I know he visited 46 in both terms)? Jimmy Carter?

On Wed, Jun 19, 2013 at 1:19 PM, John Harwood johnjharwood@gmail.com wrote:

I don't know where predecessors stood on state visits at this point in their presidencies. But i tried to make clear, by saying his travel was unsurprising and reflected "routine cost-benefits calculations of the modern presidency," that my point wasn't to compare President Obama to earlier presidents. Rather i was measuring those routine decisions against the aspirations he had expressed for himself.

Brad DeLong: Clinton, as you say, made travel-for-outreach a high priority. Clinton, as you know at least as we as I do, was at least as much a public believer in not Red States or Blue States but the United States as Obama is--Clinton promised to take good ideas from whatever party they originated and implement them, not just health-care reform and short-term stimulus and tax cuts for the middle class and not the rich from the Democrats, but NAFTA and welfare reform and a government that lived within its means from the Republicans, and he did so.

If indeed it is the case that right now that Bipartisan Healer Obama--who does not make travel a priority for outreach--is running neck-and-neck with his travels with New Democrat Clinton, that is a very powerful indictment of your thesis.

And the fact that you do not know whether or not that is true is, I think, something that we readers of the New York Times should note, and think hard about.