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Obama opts for ESPN over RNC

August 30, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • President Obama speaks during a campaign stop in Charlottesville, Va.
President Obama speaks during a campaign stop in Charlottesville, Va. (Alex Wong / Getty Images )

TAMPA, Fla. -- Twenty million people watched television coverage of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday. Chances are, President Obama was not one of them.

The White House again said Thursday that the president is tuning out the rival party's gathering in Tampa, using his time instead to focus on official duties like reading briefing books, or maybe catch some live sports.

To the extent he's kept up with the coverage at all, it's been through written news accounts.

"He has enormous regard and respect for broadcast reporters -- but most of his news he gets through reading," press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday. "When the TV is on and the president is in the room, it’s usually ESPN."

If that's the case, Obama was watching a Cardinals-Pirates baseball game Wednesday instead of Condoleezza Rice, Susana Martinez and Paul Ryan on stage in Florida.

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"This is not a case where he's not aware of or paying close attention to" the speeches, Carney said at his briefing Thursday. "He is, as you know, an avid consumer of the news and is keeping very abreast of news developments both, importantly, matters like the storm in the Gulf, but also what's happening -- what's been going on in Tampa."

At a campaign event Wednesday, the president said the proceedings have been a "pretty interesting show."

"My opponents are down there, they're offering their agenda. ... They've got wonderful things to say about me," he said in Charlottesville, Va. "But you know what's interesting is you can listen very carefully, very hard, and you won’t hear them offer a clear, serious path forward. You won't."

Campaign aides have been monitoring things more closely, from Chicago and at the Democrats' Tampa response center just outside the secure perimeter downtown.

Reporters who arrived for the grand opening on Saturday got a goodie bag complete with "100 Grand" candy bars, and a passport stamped with locales such as the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, among other items.

The full name of the opposition hub is the "Romney Economics: Wrong for the Middle Class War Room," and each day this week it has hosted Democratic "counterprogramming" -- party surrogates, campaign aides and sometimes "real people" reacting to the Republican message, and pre-butting anticipated attacks.

"There are 71 days left before the election. We're not going to cede any one of them," deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said during one such news conference Wednesday.

Republicans say they will be doing the same in Charlotte during next week's Democratic convention.

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