TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Barreling through the presidential campaign’s competitive states, President Barack Obama will detour deep in the South on Labor Day, long enough to offer a presence and promises of help to those flooded out by Hurricane Isaac.
Obama will mix politics and presidential empathy on a holiday traditionally known as an election-year turning point, with summer closing and more voters paying attention to the race for the White House. Obama shortened his campaign schedule after Isaac pounded the Gulf Coast, but he will still rally the labor vote in Ohio on Monday.
In Louisiana, Obama will visit one of the areas hardest by the hurricane, St. John the Baptist Parish, about 30 miles west of New Orleans. Obama will view the storm damage and assess recovery efforts before addressing reporters. His rival in the White House race, Republican Mitt Romney, visited the state on Friday after accepting his party’s presidential nomination one night earlier.
For both men, showing election-year concern for people recovering from a disaster without making an overt political event of their visit has been a priority. The White House offered no criticism when Romney, a private citizen determined to oust Obama from his job, drew attention to the needs of the people of Louisiana — and himself — with his visit to the state.
Obama too has been regularly calling state officials, mayors and other officials to show support and command of the federal response. He has done so while juggling campaign rallies in Iowa, Colorado and now Ohio and working on his convention speech while aboard Air Force One. The Democratic National Convention begins Tuesday; Obama will speak on Thursday night.
Days after Isaac passed, roughly 200,000 people across Louisiana still lack power, and thousands of evacuees were in shelters or staying with friends or relatives.
Obama begins by trying to win over voters in Ohio, one of the seven most contested states likely to decide the Nov. 6 election.
Speaking to the United Auto Workers, Obama is expected to emphasize his support of the auto bailout that Romney opposed. The recoveries of General Motors and Chrysler have been recurrent themes in Obama’s re-election campaign, particularly in states such as Michigan and the battleground of Ohio.
“When the auto industry was on the verge of collapse, he said, ‘Let’s let Detroit go bankrupt,’” Obama said of Romney during a campus rally in Boulder, Colo., on Sunday. “I’ve got a different vision for America. I bet on American workers and I bet on American manufacturing. And today, the U.S. auto industry has come roaring back.”
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