President Obama, in a bomber jacket to ward off the Wisconsin chill, campaigns… (Pablo Martinez Monsivais…)
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Just in case anyone misses the not-so-subtle message of the president’s closing days on the campaign trail, there it was emblazoned across his chest in the brown leather bomber jacket he was wearing Thursday.
“Barack Obama,” it said. “Commander in Chief.”
The closing arguments of the long presidential campaign began in earnest Thursday, and Obama and Republican Mitt Romney returned to the trail broadcasting explicit messages about the economy.
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They’re not above some trash-talking, of course. Romney, in Roanoke, Va., took aim at Obama’s idea of creating a Cabinet-level position to promote American business, saying the country needs “a president who understand business,” not another bureaucrat.
Obama gave as good as he got, mocking the former Massachusetts governor’s promises of “big change.”
“What the governor is offering sure ain’t change,” Obama said in Las Vegas.
“Ruling out compromise by pledging to rubber-stamp the tea party’s agenda as president. That’s definitely not change!”
But Obama this week has been focused on projecting a bigger image in the closing days of the campaign. As Hurricane Sandy barreled toward the East Coast, Obama dropped off the campaign trail in favor of staffing White House situation room and running the federal storm preparation and response.
When it was over, he flew in to New Jersey to solemnly view storm damage, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie joining him in the Marine One helicopter as the cameras rolled.
Afterward, he made public remarks to a few first responders and local residents, telling them of the C-17 and C-130 military transports he had standing by to “move assets and personnel” to aid recovery.
On top of that, he said, “We’ve got a Navy ship that has some helicopters that can help to move assets around the state as well.”
Message received. Christie — a Republican and campaign surrogate for Romney — was effusive in his praise of the president.
Back on the trail Thursday, Obama packed three swing states into one day, thanks to the air-space-clearing ability of Air Force One. Obama conducted his morning rally on the tarmac in Green Bay, Wis., before 2,000 supporters.
Against the Wisconsin chill, he wore the Commander in Chief jacket. Then he hopped on the plane to jet to Nevada, where his opening acts were musician Sheila E. and actress Eva Longoria.
If the closing message is to remind people that he is at home as head of state, then the storm and the post-storm tour came right on time.
“Obviously the president has been focused the last few days on exactly what the American people elected him to do,” said campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki, “which is to serve as commander in chief and manage the country in a state of crisis.”