Obama On 5-State Barnstorming And Fundraising Trip

President Obama will spend the next week visiting the Rust Belt, an ill-fitting moniker given the recent recession. He'll be talking up the recovery in the economy at a time when it seems to be losing steam, and attending fund-raisers in other cities. Host Liane Hansen talks to NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley about the trip and the challenges.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

President Obama and his family are on a whirlwind visit to Florida, to promote tourism in the wake of the BP oil spill. Mr. Obama is trying to encourage other families to vacation along the Gulf Coast, an area that's heavily dependent on tourists. The Florida trip is just the beginning of Mr. Obama's travels this week.

NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley joins us to talk about it. And, Scott, this is a far-flung set of destinations. Can you run it all down for us?

SCOTT HORSLEY: If it's Tuesday, it must be...

HANSEN: It must be...

HORSLEY: ...Seattle. Mr. Obama plans to hit five states in three days. He starts Monday in Wisconsin, where he'll visit an energy firm, then it's on to California. On Tuesday, he's in Washington state, and then he starts making his way east again, stopping off in Ohio and ending up back in Florida, where he has a political fundraiser on Wednesday.

HANSEN: So what are some of the issues that he's highlighting?

HORSLEY: I'm sure we'll hear a lot about the economy. That's the number one issue for voters. I mentioned the energy plant he's stopping off at. Clean energy, of course, has been a big focus for this president. And he'll be talking, we're told, about his export initiative.

Remember, back in the State of the Union address, he set a goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years. The reason for that is it's a way to grow the domestic economy without having to rely on those overstretched American consumers. Unfortunately, the president got some bad news this past week, when the Commerce Department released new trade figures showing exports actually shrank in June, and the trade deficit widened. So not the direction the president wants those numbers to go in.

HANSEN: But at every stop along the way, he's also going to be raising a lot of money for Democratic candidates?

HORSLEY: That's right. This is a role that we're told he takes very seriously -as rainmaker and head of Democratic Party. And he's good at it. Even with his slumping approval numbers, faithful Democrats are more than willing to open up their checkbooks when the president's in town.

In some cases, he'll be raising money for individual candidates, like Washington State Senator Patty Murray. Elsewhere, he'll be raising money for campaign committees; and in Florida and Wisconsin, for the state Democratic Parties to do party building from the ground up.

HANSEN: And after five states in three days, Mr. Obama returns to Washington. What's next for him?

HORSLEY: Well, he won't be staying in Washington very long. On Thursday, he and the family are scheduled to travel to Martha's Vineyard, in Massachusetts, for their summer vacation - if you can use the word president and vacation in the same line. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs joked this week that it only takes one call from the Situation Room to spoil the best-laid plans.

But there, the first family should get a little breather. They're scheduled to be on Martha's Vineyard for about 10 days. And then on the 29th, President Obama will travel to New Orleans, where he will mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

HANSEN: Quite a trip. NPR's Scott Horsley. Thank you very much.

HORSLEY: Great to be with you, Liane.

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