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Obama unveils new campaign press secretary

July 05, 2012|By Christi Parsons
  • President Barack Obama boards Air Force One prior to a campaign trip at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
President Barack Obama boards Air Force One prior to a campaign trip at Joint… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )

MAUMEE, Ohio —President Obama cranked up his campaign a notch first thing on Thursday, boarding Air Force One with not one but two spokespersons — one to handle politics and the other to talk about government.

Jen Psaki, the new traveling press secretary with Obama for America, was the new addition, on board for the two-day trip to handle any election-related questions that might arise.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, was in his usual position in the president’s coterie, available to speak for Obama on all things West Wing.

The change was part of a bigger adjustment, as the Obama operation took the Fourth of July holiday as a moment to more fully involve the campaign apparatus in the president’s official travel. The campaign has sent press staff to most of the president’s campaign events since the kickoff this past spring, but now top advisors have decided it’s time to have them present at all of them.

Obama needs someone to speak for him on the whole range of questions, press aides on both sides of the dividing line said. Their template is the 2004 campaign, when President George W. Bush had a campaign aide at his side when he traveled.

In addition to Psaki, three other campaign staffers were on hand this morning in Maumee, Ohio, in anticipation of Obama’s arrival to address a crowd of about 200 residents of this key swing state.

Meanwhile, the White House set up its outdoor traveling workspace, set off from the press and crowd by an azure curtain.

One distinction between the two teams is the accounting.

The travel for Psaki, a veteran of the 2008 Obama campaign and the early Obama White House, was paid for by the campaign, according to the campaign. The White House team traveled on Air Force One and with the press on the press-paid charter.

The trickier part may prove to be dividing the portfolio. Obama's message today, for instance, includes a reference to his new trade complaint against China before the World Trade Organization, an administration action that clearly has a political dimension.

On Thursday morning, the division of labor looked like this:

When a reporter asked Katie Hogan, the campaign’s deputy press secretary, a question about the WTO complaint, Hogan pointed to the blue curtain and the press operation at work on the other side.

Asked about the crowd that turned out to hear that message, White House assistant press secretary Clark Stevens pointed back to Hogan on the other side of the curtain, stirring slightly under the breeze.

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