"I think he is looking forward to spending the night in his house for a change" said Robert Gibbs ahead of President Obama's trip to Chicago Wednesday and Thursday. But, as the president heads "home" just in time to celebrate his 49th birthday, there continues to be murmurs about the lack of visits to Chicago for President Obama and his family.
Since taking office in January 2009, President Obama has visited Chicago a grand total of THREE times! The visit Wednesday will be his fourth. In contrast, former President George W. Bush went to Texas, and his ranch in Crawford 14 times in the same time period and when Bush wasn't at Crawford, he was visiting Camp David.
The lack of travel to Illinois may have some scratching their collective heads, but Larry Sabato from the University of Virginia Center for Politics says perhaps there's something political at play, with all the trials and tribulations in Chicago, maybe vacationing elsewhere is more appealing.
"Could Obama be avoiding Chicago until the Blagojevich trial blows over? I know he's there to raise money for Giannoulias, and so questions are raised about Rezko, Blagojevich, and Chicago corruption," Sabato told Fox News. The trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is currently in the sixth day of deliberations and it's possible the jury could reach a verdict while the president is in town. "Maine looks like a lot more fun right now."
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce says they are proud to be the hometown of President Obama and while they hoped their tourism initiative would have taken off more, they realize why the president is not coming home a lot. "We fully understand the president's agenda in trying to turn this economy around with two wars," says Jerry Roper from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. "We are not disappointed in him nor do we feel slighted by any means. We believe when he does come back we will see a bump in the local economy. We see a tremendous support for the president when he's here."
Roper says given that the last president from Illinois was Abraham Lincoln, the expectations weren't very high anyway and that from the business community perspective, Washington might be a better place for the president to spend his time. "It's much better having him in his chair at the White House than his chair in Hyde Park."