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Is Barack Obama Ignoring Red State Americans?

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President has delivered 8 times the number of remarks outside Washington, D.C. in states he carried in 2008 than states won by John McCain

This report is the second in a series on a study of the 600+ verbal statements Barack Obama has delivered since Inauguration Day. The first installment focused on the sharp decline in statements delivered by the President in 2010.

While many Americans believe that their voice was not heard in Washington D.C. during the recent passage by the Democrats of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Tea Party adherents the most vocal among them), there are indeed Americans who can point to having received less of the President's attention than their neighbors, at least through his first 14+ months in office: red state Americans.

A Smart Politics analysis of more than 500 addresses, speeches, and remarks by President Barack Obama finds that he has delivered 8 times the number of verbal statements made outside of Washington D.C. in states he carried in 2008, compared to those won by John McCain.

Excluding formal media appearances (news conferences and interviews), the President delivered 531 verbal statements in formal addresses, speeches, and brief remarks from Inauguration Day through March 21, 2010:

· The majority of these statements, 63.5 percent (337) were delivered within the District of Columbia.
· Another 116 statements were delivered in states Obama carried on Election Day (21.8 percent)
· Only 15 such statements were delivered in states won by John McCain (2.8 percent), or 8 times fewer statements than in 'Obama states.'
· An additional 63 verbal statements (11.9 percent) were delivered outside of the United States (excluding media events).

This means the President has delivered more than four times as many statements in foreign countries (63) than he has in the 22 states won by McCain (15).

President Obama's Verbal Statements by Audience Location, January 20, 2009-March 21, 2010

Location
#
Percent
Washington, D.C.
337
63.5
Obama states
116
21.8
Foreign countries
63
11.9
McCain states
15
2.8
Total
531
100.0
Data excludes formal media appearances (press conferences and interviews). Presidential statement data was culled from the Public Papers of the Presidents at The American Presidency Project. Compiled by Smart Politics.

This data certainly suggests Obama is remembering quite well which states got him elected in 2008, and which states inordinately harbor his political opponents - he is traveling to and engaging with the former and almost completely ignoring the latter.

But how might these imbalances be explained by the Obama administration?

First, due to the fact that some key federal government buildings located outside of D.C. are housed on the East Coast (e.g. at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland; the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia; Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia), a handful of verbal statements would have been delivered by any president at these locations throughout his administration.

However, even after excluding such remarks from analysis (as well as those made to the United Nations in New York), the President has still delivered 8.5 times as many remarks to audiences in Obama states as those in McCain states.

A second explanation the White House might use for this large imbalance as to which Americans receive Obama's attention when he makes appearances on the road is the proximity of Obama states to the White House as compared to McCain states.

In the 2008 election, Obama swept through the 14 states in the mid-Atlantic, New England, and East North Central divisions of the United States, with the majority of the 22 states he lost coming from the West South Central, Mountain, and East South Central divisions.

For example, if the President wants to get out of Washington to deliver remarks on education policy, he might be more apt to choose a school closer to D.C. (e.g. at Viers Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland on October 19, 2009) than, say, in Lawrence, Kansas.

Or if the President wanted to speak about military issues at a Naval Air Station, it would be a little quicker for him to reach the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida (as he did on October 26, 2009) than to fly to, say, Kingsville, Texas.

A third explanation could simply be population-based, as Obama carried the lion's share of the most populous states in the country. However, the population of the 28 states carried by Obama in 2008 (209,278,040) is only 2.2 times that of the population of the 22 states won by McCain (94,189,851) - a far cry from the eight-fold differential in public appearances.

As such, these qualifiers can only explain away part of the Obama public strategy to so inordinately focus his public speaking appearances on audiences in those states that got him elected, and largely ignore those in states that voted against him.

In total, Obama has spoken to nearly 80 percent of 28 'Obama states' since Inauguration Day (22), while only addressing less than one-third of the 22 'McCain states' (7).

Obama has delivered 116 statements in 22 of the 28 states he carried in November 2008 (79 percent of such states). The only states he has missed to date: Delaware, Maine, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

By contrast, Obama has delivered only 15 statements across just 7 of the 22 states won by John McCain (32 percent of such states).

While Obama has spoken to audiences in the McCain states of Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, and Texas, he has yet to speak as President in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Looking at the partisan tilt of those states in which Obama is focusing his attention when he hits the road is equally revealing: purple states are not to be missed while red states usually do not make the cut.

· The President has delivered 65 of his 131 domestic remarks to audiences across the nation's 'blue states' (49.6 percent). Obama has spoken in 14 of 20 blue states to date, only missing the six 'Obama states' listed above.
· The President delivered an additional 53 statements statements in 'purple states' (40.5 percent), hitting 9 of 11 states along the way, missing only Arkansas and West Virginia (two purple states quickly turning red).
· Only 13 of the President's domestic remarks were delivered in classic 'red states' (9.9 percent).

And while the President has addressed audiences in 6 of the 19 red states, more than half of these 13 statements were delivered to audiences in the two red states he carried last November: Indiana (5) and North Carolina (2).

Overall, an average of 4.82 verbal remarks have been delivered per purple state, 3.25 per blue state, and just 0.68 per red state.

President Obama's Verbal Statements by State's Partisan Leanings, January 20, 2009-March 21, 2010

Type
#
Percent
States
Ratio
Blue
65
49.6
20
3.25
Purple
53
40.5
11
4.82
Red
13
9.9
19
0.68
This table reflects the definition of a red state as having an average margin of victory over the past five presidential election cycles of more than five points for the Republicans, a blue state of more than five points for the Democrats, and a purple state as having less than a five point tilt in either direction. Data excludes statements made in the District of Columbia or in foreign countries. Data excludes formal media appearances (press conferences and interviews). Presidential statement data was culled from the Public Papers of the Presidents at The American Presidency Project. Compiled by Smart Politics.

Overall, Obama carried each of the 10 states which top the list of those he has addressed the most frequently since Inauguration Day: Virginia (21 times), New York (17), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (7), Ohio (7), California (6), Pennsylvania (6), Florida (6), New Jersey (5), and Indiana (5).

President Obama's Verbal Statements by State, January 20, 2009-March 21, 2010

Rank
State
2008
Tilt
#
%
1
Virginia
Obama
Purple
21
16.0
2
New York
Obama
Blue
17
13.0
3
Maryland
Obama
Blue
10
7.6
4
Massachusetts
Obama
Blue
7
5.3
4
Ohio
Obama
Purple
7
5.3
6
California
Obama
Blue
6
4.6
6
Pennsylvania
Obama
Blue
6
4.6
6
Florida
Obama
Purple
6
4.6
9
New Jersey
Obama
Blue
5
3.8
9
Indiana
Obama
Red
5
3.8
11
Illinois
Obama
Blue
4
3.1
11
Colorado
Obama
Purple
4
3.1
11
Nevada
Obama
Purple
4
3.1
11
Missouri
McCain
Purple
4
3.1
15
Wisconsin
Obama
Blue
3
2.3
15
Arizona
McCain
Purple
3
2.3
17
Hawaii
Obama
Blue
2
1.5
17
Louisiana
McCain
Purple
2
1.5
17
New Hampshire
Obama
Purple
2
1.5
17
North Carolina
Obama
Red
2
1.5
17
Georgia
McCain
Red
2
1.5
17
Texas
McCain
Red
2
1.5
23
Connecticut
Obama
Blue
1
0.8
23
Iowa
Obama
Blue
1
0.8
23
Michigan
Obama
Blue
1
0.8
23
Minnesota
Obama
Blue
1
0.8
23
New Mexico
Obama
Blue
1
0.8
23
Alaska
McCain
Red
1
0.8
23
Montana
McCain
Red
1
0.8
 
Total
 
 
131
100.0
Data excludes statements made in the District of Columbia or in foreign countries. Data excludes formal media appearances (press conferences and interviews). Presidential statement data was culled from the Public Papers of the Presidents at The American Presidency Project. Compiled by Smart Politics.

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2 Comments


  • Is there comparable data for G. W. Bush and other recent presidents? This information doesn't tell us much without a benchmark or point of comparison.

  • To me it is more important what the policies that a president supports then where he gives a speech. Why people care so much about those rather trivial things, I don't know. Second, there is no data on states that Bush spoke in of blue states v. red. I wonder if the purpose of this "study" was to embarras Obama. I see no other purpose to it.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

    Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

    Political Crumbs

    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


    An Idaho Six Pack

    Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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