President Obama to take day off campaign trail, talk to troops

FT. COLLINS, Colorado - President Obama will take a rare day off the campaign trail, the first time in several weeks to have an official event and talk to troops at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas on Friday.

That day also happens to mark the two-year anniversary of his announcement ending the major combat mission in Iraq. He took the day in 2010 with a visit to Fort Bliss and also gave his second Oval Address to make a statement in prime time on the drawdown.

"So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country," Obama said two years ago from the same desk seven and a half years earlier that then President George W. Bush announced the invasion.

The president took the rare move to campaign hitting college campuses in Iowa, Colorado and Virginia during the Republican National Convention, normally when an opponent takes a little down time to let the rival have a moment in the spotlight. Rival Mitt Romney will do the same next week, keeping on the trail while Obama officially accepts the nomination from his party.

Even though Friday's event in Texas will be "official" in nature, ending the war in Iraq is something he regularly talks about on the campaign trail, mentioning it in almost every stump speech.

For example, Tuesday in Ames, Iowa, speaking to at the University of Iowa, he said, "It was young people like you that said we could end the war in Iraq. Today that war is over -- as promised."

Back in the 2008 campaign, the war in Iraq was a hot topic before the economic crash in the fall. In the 2010 Oval Office address, the president brought that up.

"This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office," he said. "Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq's Security Forces and support its government and people."

Republicans have charged Obama is maybe taking too much credit for the drawdown, that he only followed timetables already set for Bush, and criticized his lack of experience as a senator to support the troop surge, which ended up being a turning point in the war.

Friday is the first out of town official event that wasn't a campaign stop the president has held since early July.