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California, Here Obama Comes

President Obama kicks off his Southern California trip later today with a town hall meeting in Orange County -- kind of a gutsy move, considering that the county is widely considered one of the nation's great bastions of conservatism.

Dena Bunis and Martin Wiskol write in the Orange County Register: "What better place to demonstrate that President Barack Obama will go anywhere and before any kind of audience to sell his fix for the economy than Orange County?

"White House officials won't say how they decided to include a town hall in Costa Mesa in the leader of the free world's first trip to California as president. Or even why the Golden State made his first 100 days list....

"Some local politicians and people who have worked to bring the president here have their theories about why O.C. made the cut.

"'I think this is an ideal place if you want to reach out to people and have an open forum where you potentially are going to have a hostile audience,'' said Orange County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Barbaro....

"'If he went to Los Angeles or San Francisco, it would be seen as preaching to the choir,' said Wylie Aitken, chairman of the Democratic Foundation of Orange County. 'My sense of it is that it will play very well to the national audience. I think this shows how strong a grasp he has on what it takes to be a great communicator.'

"Republican Michael Schroeder, a former GOP state chairman, agrees that by coming to Orange County Obama is saying "I can go anywhere."'"

Then again, Obama's visit could say more about Orange County than about him. Carla Marinucci writes in the San Franciso Chronicle: "President Obama's decision to kick off his first official visit to California with a town hall meeting in Orange County says it all: Change really has come to the hard-core Republican stronghold."

Indeed, as Jonathan Darman wrote recently in Newsweek: "In November, a place that fancies itself 'the reddest county in America' gave the Democratic nominee for president nearly 48 percent of the vote."

Also consider that the largest concentration of sub-prime lenders was headquartered in Orange County when the meltdown began, and that the county has been devastated by the foreclosure crisis.

Judging from the long and enthusiastic lines to get tickets on Tuesday, it's unlikely too many sharp critics will be in the audience today.

Jennifer Muir and Niyaz Pirani write for the Orange County Register: "White House officials started handing out tickets to the town hall meeting at 10 a.m. this morning, as thousands of people waited in a line that snaked around the fairgrounds parking lot for a chance to attend the town hall meeting.

"The scene was like the outside of a rock concert, onlookers said.

"Five minutes before the gate into the Orange County fairgrounds ticket booth opened, the front of the line spontaneously erupted into a wave."

The Register also asked folks in line what they'd ask Obama.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board notes Obama's planned stop in Burbank to appear on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno": "This has set tongues wagging in the capital not only because it's the first time a sitting president has done such a thing -- although late-night TV appearances are common for presidential candidates, Obama's predecessors have considered them beneath the dignity of the office once they were elected -- but because it's combined with a snub of the Beltway media elite. Even as he bypasses the press to take his message straight to Leno's 5 million viewers, Obama is ditching Washington's movers and shakers by skipping the Gridiron Club's annual dinner on Saturday. He's the first president to do so since Grover Cleveland."

By Dan Froomkin  |  March 18, 2009; 12:25 PM ET
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March 18th, 2009
Good Morning President OBAMA:
RE: California Visit

Thankful that the President is visiting our "state"..hopefully he can focus in on the "State" of mind of the State.
The Terminator has mis-stepped in his leadership...
I cant expect the President to visit
"po-dunk" Oakland, there's nothing here to see actually.
But, the city is also mis-stepped in government-ship. The mayor is not effective, our govenor isnt effective.
We are in a twilight zone State, Mr President.

I need a JOB..but so do thousands of babyboomers like me! We are hopelessesly
treading water as we speak....
Thanks for coming, anyway.
ENJOY Your Day!


Posted by: enigmanetx4 | March 18, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

What was Grover Cleveland's excuse for missing the Gridiron?

Posted by: laloomis | March 18, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Not enough issues to deal with to stay in DC and work? Fundraising with Barbara and Steven? Haircut on AF1? Joking with Jay. Not a smartly timed trip.

Posted by: revoevo | March 18, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

"Not enough issues to deal with to stay in DC and work?"

POTUS is a figurehead. As we learned from the last guy who had the job, he doesn't have to be in DC to work (or screw things up). Besides - if the alternative is to continue allowing the beltway press to drive the daily narrative, as they did when Obama was doing too little before he was doing too much, I say let him personally visit all 50 states every month.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | March 18, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Our President just loves to fly around at 60 thousand an hour in his toy AirForce One, having a cheeseburger at 37 thousand feet. He brings his entourage and his limousine and hundreds of support staff and Secret Service to appear in California and then try to "wag the dog" with a Jay Leno appearance like he was flacking a new movie.

We have nothing to fear but the fearsome four our President, Joe Biden, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

Posted by: mharwick | March 18, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

You mean this President isn't only talking to military audiences who are not permitted to disagree, or to handpicked GOP apparatchiks who will tell him how they pray for him every day?

Wow, seems like we have a real adult and a MAN in charge now, not a strutting empty suit who hid behind his handlers. THANK GOD CHANGE HAS COME TO AMERICA!

Posted by: sambam | March 18, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

"In November, a place that fancies itself 'the reddest county in America' gave the Democratic nominee for president nearly 48 percent of the vote.""

I live in Ca 48, which Obama carried 49.3 - 48.6%. This was the first Democratic Presidential win in my district in over 40 years. Since pre- John Birch Society.

"President Obama kicks off his Southern California trip later today with a town hall meeting in Orange County -- kind of a gutsy move, considering that the county is widely considered one of the nation's great bastions of conservatism."

Orange County is the "birthplace" of the John Birch Society. These were EXTREME conservatives, in the mold of Barry Goldwater, and the take off pad for Saint Ronnie, the greatest son of this movement. Love him or dislike(being pc)him, this is the political epicenter of modern conservatism.

When I lived in L.A., Orange County was known as "behind the orange curtain". So yes, Obama is entering Bircher territory, but after so many years in the darkness, Orange County is seeing the light, and OC will be a good Town Hall meeting. I imagine we will hear tougher questions in this 1 town hall than GWB answered in his 8 years in office.

Posted by: barkleyg | March 18, 2009 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Come on!

As usual, people watch too much TV and drink too much soda.

Costa Mesa is 15 miles from DisneyLand! OC was very Republican in the 80's. Not so nowadays with the huge migration of Latinos, Asians, Europeans, etc... It looks like a cleaned up LA down there: no 10ft lifted 4x4s, mullets, barns, dirty roads--I don't see a redneck until I'm over the hills. Most have moved away. It got it's stereotype because of the (wealthy) San Francisco liberals.

It's 10% more Republican cause people down there LOVE THE TAX BREAKS cause they're RICH. Some may have ultraconservative values (Saddleback church is close by), but nothing near the likes of good'ol boy SW VA, 'the south' and Utah.

Reason for Obama's choice? most ticket holders are from LA proper, it **10mins** from Newport Beach, it's sunny, 80deg here today, O.C. has been hit HARD from housing and of course LENO is an hour away--It's about showmanship folks! For all I know, the kids are on Spring Break and likely at Disneyland today!

Posted by: recharged95 | March 18, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

You can bet that NONE of the attendees at Obama's town hall will have to sign a LOYALTY OATH, they way attendees at any GWB meeting did. We finally have a MAN in office who can face a crowd that is not filled with hand-picked, hard core followers.

Posted by: lgaide | March 19, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

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