Cement shoes on the campaign trail

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama is using an Ohio bridge and cement-plant today as stages for his campaign criticism of the Republicans’ opposition to his job plan, but the local media is skeptical and the GOP is blaming his policies for eliminating cement plant jobs.

“Obama Visit Won’t Build New Bridge,” declared the front-page headline on Thursday’s issue of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The subhead was more blunt, saying of Obama’s appearance  “It’s a prop for jobs bill.” That skepticism is especially damaging for the Obama campaign, because campaign planners are counting on upbeat local coverage to help boost the president’s ratings.

Obama won the state by 5 percent in 2008, but the formal unemployment rate is now 9.1 percent, and he’s stuck at 45 percent when rated against leading GOP candidates, according to an August poll by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm.  More than 10 percent of the voters are undecided, but they’re likely to turn against the incumbent in 2012, giving the the state to the Republican candidate.

The Republicans also made sure to get their story into the media: “Our focus in the House throughout the year has been on removing government barriers to job creation … We write today in hopes that you will use you visit today to express your support for legislation moving through the House that would stop the federal government from imposing excessive regulations on cement manufacturers that threatens thousands of American jobs,” said a morning letter from two local Republican representatives, Steve Chabot and Geoff Davis.

The quick response shows how the GOP is stepping up their rapid-fire response as Obama steps out on the campaign trail.

Most of his travel is to swing states, such as Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia. On Sunday, he’ll be traveling to Seattle, then to San Diego and Los Angeles on Monday, and perhaps other sites before returning to the capital. His polls have sagged in both states, but polls show he’s unlikely to lose either in the 2012 election.

At each stop, his events prompt push-back by the local GOP. Before each visit, the Republican National Committee (RNC) often schedules a press conference with a local Republican and RNC chairman Reince Priebus. On Sept. 14, for example, Priebus jabbed at Obama’s visit to North Carolina. “This president is in love with the sound of his own voice, he’s in love with campaigning, he’s in love with fundraising and he’s in love with the stump,” he said. “He’s doing what he loves to do best, which is to go to battleground states, masquerade as official business, use taxpayer money to do it, and campaign … but his new proposals are just the same old thing that he’s been doing for the past two and a half years.”

Obama is visiting the 50-year-old Brent Spence Bridge between Kentucky and swing-state Ohio, and the cement plant, to ramp up his base-pleasing criticism of the House majority that has rebuffed his spending plans. Democrats say plans to replace the old bridge have been stalled by the GOP, costing local jobs. His speech is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. EDT, giving local media plenty of time to broadcast his appearance on the local news shows.

But the RNC weighed in this morning by citing various reports that the replacement project isn’t funded, and can’t begin breaking ground until 2015. “Of course Obama is more concerned with the politics of the bridge than the facts,” said the RNC statement.

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