Do the people of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri need health care reform more than Americans living in non-swing states? That's the impression we're getting as we prepare for another presidential health care rally tomorrow in the newly minted swing state of Virginia. The president will hold a campaign-style rally at George Mason University, where we expect students and swing state voters to urge Congress to pass the president's top domestic priority. Since the bipartisan "Health care Summit" at Blair House on February 25th, the president has held three health care events in three swing states. On March 8th, the president spoke in the Philadelphia suburb of Willow Grove, PA, on the 10th, he was in St. Louis, MO and on the 15th he was in Strongsville, OH--outside of Cleveland. His speech in Fairfax tomorrow will make health care events in swing states 4 for 4.
Playing devil's advocate, we could argue that the president is going to George Mason tomorrow simply because it's close to Washington, DC. It only takes a couple of hours out of the president's schedule, as opposed to a cross-country trip that eats up an entire day. Maybe the speech in Rep. Dennis Kucinich's Strongsville congressional district was to push the wavering Democrat to switch his vote to "yes" from "no." We saw yesterday that if this was the president's approach, it worked. The Missouri visit may have been aimed at getting Rep. Ike Skelton, the only Democrat in the Missouri delegation to vote "no," to switch his position.
However, these political calculations aimed at individual members of congress does not account for a broader pattern of visits to swing states since President Obama's inauguration. A Washington Post analysis shows that the president has held events in Ohio 12 times, Pennsylvania 16 times, Missouri 5 times and Florida 9 times. The only other states the president has held events in double digits are Virginia (41), Maryland (55), New York (35) and his home state of Hawaii (42). The Maryland and Virginia events can be attributed to their proximity to the White House, while the New York visits have been primarily for fundraising and social purposes. The Hawaii number is because that is where the president vacations with his family.
Earlier in President Obama's term, FairVote released an Innovative Analysis that showed a trend beginning to develop where the president favored visiting swing states versus spectator states. The choice of states for recent health care rallies underscores this trend and should make it clear that the White House's political calculations are as much about getting to 270 (the number of electoral votes necessary to win the presidency) as they are about getting to 216 (the number of votes needed in the House to pass health care reform).