SALT LAKE CITY —
President Barack Obama's visit to Utah isn't just the first time he's been to the state while in office. It's also the latest stop on his tour of Republican “red” states.
Obama has traveled to 10 Republican states since the GOP took control of both houses of Congress in January. Those states – Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah – all voted for the president’s Republican opponent in 2012.
He has visited nine states that voted to give him a second term.
The White House says there is no concerted effort to put the president in Republican states.
White House says it’s promoting ideas
Spokesman Eric Schultz said the ideas Obama has been talking about, including curbing payday lending practices and tuition-free community college, are commonsense ones with broad, not partisan, appeal. Some of the ideas were inspired by activities in these states, so it’s appropriate for Obama to show up there to promote them, Schultz said.
Obama discussed new limits on payday lending in Birmingham, Alabama, which Schultz said had done a lot of hard work on the issue.
Similarly, Obama went to Knoxville, Tennessee, to start promoting his community college proposal. Schultz said it was inspired by a program begun under Tennessee's Republican governor.
"There are really important, substantive reasons that explain the places we go,'' Schultz said in an interview.
Obama's overnight in Salt Lake City also brought him closer to meeting a goal that only a few presidents have achieved: visiting all 50 states while in office.
Countdown on state visits
At the start of the year, Obama had been to 46 states. The White House quickly scheduled presidential appearances in Idaho and South Carolina – two of the four remaining states – followed by Utah. Obama arrived here late Thursday to talk about jobs and the economy on Friday.
South Dakota now has the distinction of being the only state still awaiting a presidential visit by Obama. With 21 months left on his term, he has plenty of time to get there.
Meanwhile, Obama was appearing at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah, on Friday to announce new steps to support military veterans and encourage growth in the solar industry.
Those steps include an updated commitment by the Energy Department to train 75,000 people, including veterans, to enter the solar industry workforce by 2020. In May 2014, the department had announced a goal of training 50,000 solar workers by 2020.
The Departments of Energy and Defense are also starting a program at 10 military bases around the country, including at Hill Air Force Base, to teach service members who are preparing to leave the military how to size and install solar panels. Hill Air Force Base has already installed solar panels on its grounds.
Political pressures affect travel
Republican political strategist Kevin Madden said a president's travel schedule is often dictated by political pressures, whether it is the need to build support for their agenda in more heavily populated states or to tend to important electoral battlegrounds, like Ohio, where Obama appeared last month to lash out at Republican spending priorities.
"That means some of the other states just don't see as much presidential travel,'' Madden said in an email. "When those pressures wane, presidents in their last two years start to make it a priority to get to those states before their term is up.''
He noted that President Bill Clinton did not get to Nebraska, his 50th state, until the final few months of his presidency.
Whenever he does get to South Dakota, Obama will become the fourth president to hit all 50 states, according to the White House Historical Association.
Richard Nixon was first, followed by George H.W. Bush and Clinton.
Ronald Reagan came up four states short of the goal.
George W. Bush never made it to Vermont.