President Obama and his administration officials have made 435 taxpayer-funded visits to college campuses or other events targeting students since March 2011 , including 166 trips to battleground states, a new study shows.
“The travel is not tied to trying to pass a specific piece of legislation,” Paul Conway, president of the influential youth group, Generation Opportunity, told The Washington Examiner. “It’s all travel specifically targeted to a demographic. And when you think about how important a role young voters play in [Obama's] coalition, then it’s not just by happenstance.”
According to the study, which surveyed administration announcements and media reports,Virginia students have received 34 visits – more than any other state — from Obama or his representatives. That number is doubtless inflated by the convenience of traveling a relatively short distance for events, but the state also plays a crucial role in his re-election efforts.
“If we win Virginia, we will win this election,” Obama said at a high school in Leesburg, Va., during a recent campaign stop. California and New York — in fairness, two deep-blue states — rank second and third for administration visits to students, but Pennsylvania comes in fourth with 22.
North Carolina, which saw Obama recently “slow-jam the news” with Jimmy Fallon during an official event focused om student loans at the state’s flagship university, has received 19 visits. Students in other key battleground states have also received significant attention, especially Florida (17), Colorado (15), Michigan and Ohio (14 each). Students in Iowa and New Hampshire got nine visits each from the official Obama team, while Wisconsin edged New Mexico by getting six visits to its campuses, rather than five. The Obama administration visited students in Nevada twice.
“This is a tale of two campaigns,” Conway said. “You have official travel which is paid for by the taxpayers that the president and the vice president and the cabinet and the sub-cabinet have been doing for about a year and a half.”
President Obama has made 42 such official visits to campuses and other student events around the country, in addition to non-travel outreach efforts such as writing opinion columns for college campus newspapers. Travel aboard Air Force One costs taxpayers $181,757 per hour, the U.S. military reported in 2010.
For reference, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, — famously popular among young people — said this week that “he visited 33 college campuses” over the last five years, according to Red Alert Politics.
“The real kicker is when you consider how high youth unemployment is [17.1 percent],” Conway noted. “What we think based on this is that it’s a very well-thought out, targeted, coordinated, and intentional effort to reach out to young people through official travel at taxpayer expense.”