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I found some irony in this. The president visited Sweden, with its approximately zero electoral votes, but he has yet to come to Utah.
The media rubbed that fact in last week when Obama finished his State of the Union address and flew off to Boise, of all places, to drum up support for all the things he asked for in that speech. He spoke in front of about 6,000 people at a sports complex at Boise State University, delivering such zingers as, “In places like Idaho, the only blue turf is on your field.”
Get it? Boise State’s stadium uses blue artificial turf, but as a symbol of Democratic support, the color is virtually non-existent in the Gem State.
Idaho gave Mitt Romney 64 percent of its votes in 2012. It gave John McCain 62 percent in 2008. “I got whooped twice, in fact,” Obama told the crowd, getting the laughter he sought, “but that’s OK. I’ve got no hard feelings.”
With Idaho checked off, the president now is only three states shy of visiting all 50 during his time in office — South Dakota, South Carolina and, to no one’s surprise, Utah.
Of course, he could have swung by after Boise without getting the engines on Air Force One warm enough for the heaters to work, but he went to Kansas, instead. It was his second visit there. He lost Kansas in 2012 by 22 percentage points.
So, what would it take for the Beehive State to get a similar, in-person “no hard feelings” for his 48-point drubbing against favorite son Mitt?
I know what some of you are thinking, but issuing an arrest warrant probably isn’t the most effective method, however satisfying you may find it.
However, the most effective way isn’t very attractive, either. It involves a natural or man-made disaster of some sort. Arkansas might still be on the list but for a tornado that tore through the state last spring. The same can be said for Mississippi, which got its lone visit after an oil spill in the Gulf in 2010.
Truth is, Utah hasn’t been high on any president’s itinerary for years. Presidential visits here usually accompany some high-profile event, with a much larger audience. For instance, George W. Bush came here in 2005 to speak to a veterans’ convention. He also came for the Olympics. Otherwise, there isn’t much point.
It was different in the old days. John F. Kennedy came in 1963, just weeks before his fateful trip to Dallas. He had lost the state by 9 percentage points in 1960, but he still felt it necessary to seek support here. Utah gave Lyndon Johnson a 9-point victory in 1964. In other words, the state was politically competitive back then.
Today, Utah is as predictable as winter inversions. Democratic hopefuls know they don’t stand a chance. Republicans know they don’t have to bother. And don’t say it would be different without the Electoral College. The state’s small population would make it irrelevant to a popular vote regardless of how it might swing.
Of course, Obama made it clear in his State of the Union that he is finished campaigning. Politics no longer is the driving force in deciding where to visit. Press Secretary Josh Earnest hinted at something akin to a bucket list of visiting all 50 states. “So hopefully we’ll be able to get that done in the next two years,” the Washington Post quoted him as saying.
So, there you go. Thanks for the warning. It may be similar to how Bill Clinton checked off his 50-state list by going to Nebraska in December of 2000, while the Supreme Court was trying to decide whether Bush or Al Gore would be the next president.
Frankly, there isn’t much value in being an afterthought. From what I observed in Sweden, we could do without the traffic diversions.
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Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist of the Deseret News. He has 32 years experience as a reporter, editor and editorial writer in Oklahoma, New York City, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. He also has been an adjunct journalism professor at Brigham Young and Weber State universities.