Florida favorite stop for presidential visits, some states not so much

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National Public Radio examined the frequency of presidential visits by Barack Obama to various states; Florida comes in fifth, with 39 visits so far during Obama’s two terms.

Rounding out the top five: Virginia (79), New York (55), California (42) and Ohio (41).

That the Sunshine State is near the top is not surprising; among other things, it happens to be a crucial swing state.

What is also not surprising is why; it all has to do with politics.

For example, those states still waiting for presidential visits from Obama: Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. Each of those states is solidly Republican, and they are where the president lost by a significant margin in 2012.

On the other hand, with the possible exception of South Carolina, those states are not attractive destinations for other U.S. presidents either.

“They are scarcely populated,” Professor Brendan Doherty tells Tamara Keith of NPR. “They are electorally non-competitive and they tend to vote for Republicans in presidential elections.

“And they’re also distant from Washington, D.C. They tend to be hard to get to.”

As a political science associate professor at the United States Naval Academy, Doherty compiled a database of presidential visits, travel and events dating back to the Carter presidency. He discovered that Vermont, North Dakota, Idaho, Montana, and Rhode Island are the states that presidents have visited least since 1977.

In “The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign,” Doherty writes about presidential travel. His analysis is that the states missing out are, in part because a presidential visit does not offer many electoral gains from visiting.

George H.W. Bush is the only commander-in-chief that visited all 50 states during his one term; he lost his re-election bid.

Presidents tend to visit swing states — like Florida — in a first term. In their second term, they will visit states with less at stake electorally.

“Presidents would like to visit all of the 50 states they lead, but time is scarce,” Doherty told Keith.

Vermont (ranked 49th in population) never rated presidential visits from either Carter, Reagan or George W. Bush. George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama only visited once.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.