President Obama takes a break from preparing for this week's debate… (Pablo Martinez Monsivais…)
HENDERSON, Nev. -- President Obama took a break from his debate preparation to be a tourist on Tuesday, heading to the Hoover Dam in the afternoon for a short tour of the massive monument to public works.
Obama’s motorcade cruised along the winding roads to the dam for the brief outing. It was the president’s first visit, he told a reporter.
The president has been hunkered down at a resort in this Las Vegas suburb, getting ready for Wednesday’s debate against GOP rival Mitt Romney. Still, Obama has managed to slip out twice for a little air. On Monday, he brought pizzas to a campaign office.
DEBATE QUIZ: Who said it?
On Tuesday, Obama toured the dam site as he chatted with employees, asking questions about the dam’s history and operations.
“The power generated here, where's it going?" Obama asked.
Rob Skordas, an assistant dam manager, told him Southern California gets most of it.
Not Las Vegas? Obama asked, surprised. "Yeah, you always assume this dam is powering all those lights,” Skordas said.
The dam has been made into something of a political argument recently, helped by MSNBC commercials in which liberal host Rachel Maddow sits in front of it as she hails government projects and their power to unify a country.
Obama made no such political statement Tuesday. Asked why he went, he said, "It’s spectacular and I've never seen it before. I didn't realize it was so close by.”
When an aide told him it was just down the road from his hotel, "I said, 'Well, we've got to go check it out.' "