President Obama is on the road in Winston-Salem, NC Monday talking about economic and intellectual competition from outside the United States, but he may also be laying the groundwork for a big 2012 run in what was a key swing state during his 2008 presidential campaign and election.
The White House wasn't playing politics with the visit, saying the city of Winston-Salem boasts a great community college, but after the drubbing in the mid-terms, some are posturing this may be the soft-launch of a 2012 campaign but the White House is sticking to its message.
"It's a good opportunity to get out, go out in the country, which the President likes to do, hear -- go hear directly from Americans here in North Carolina. And he'll have an opportunity to talk about his agenda," Deputy White House Spokesman Bill Burton told reporters on Air Force One.
And, North Carolina is probably not the only state the White House will target. Experts say even with the large-scale administration proposals, the president can hone in on certain states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and a handful of others - all states Obama won and would need again for a 2012 re-election.
"Presidential travels are not random," says Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "But if you plot their travels, easily 75% of their optional trips are to politically competitive states. It is one of the advantages of incumbency. Any presidential visit commands massive local media coverage, and a president can say, ‘You see, I really care about your views; that's why I kept coming back to see you again and again.' That may or may not work. The state of the economy is far more important than the states a president visits.
In 2008, Obama won North Carolina by just over 13 thousand votes over John McCain.