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Obama to break recent precedent, will stump during RNC

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People wait Aug. 23, 2012, outside a campaign field office in Raleigh, N.C., to receive credentials for President Obama’s acceptance speech during Charlotte’s Democratic Convention. (Associated Press)

Incumbent presidents usually lay low during their opponents’ nominating conventions, but not so with President Obama, who will wage an ambitious campaign next week to coincide with the Republican National Convention.

While Republicans meet in Tampa., Fla., to nominate Mitt Romney for president, Mr. Obama will be trying to claim some of the media spotlight with campaign trips to college campuses in Ames, Iowa, and Fort Collins, Colo., on Tuesday. He will campaign in Charlottesville, Va., on Wednesday, the third day of the Republican convention.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden will be in Tampa for campaign events on the first two days of the Republicans’ party. First lady Michelle Obama will appear Wednesday on “The Late Show With David Letterman.”

By going on the road, Mr. Obama is bucking protocol. Incumbents usually stay home while the opposing party plots their defeat. In 2004, President Bush kept a low profile while the Democrats were nominating John F. Kerry, although Vice President Dick Cheney did campaign during the Democratic convention. In 1996, 1992, 1984 and 1980, Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Reagan and Carter, respectively, laid low while the opposing parties’ conventions were held.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Mr. Obama, the first lady and Mr. Biden will be “laying out the choice the American people are facing in November, cutting through some of the political chatter” while Republicans are meeting.

Stephen Hess, a scholar on the presidency at the Brookings Institution, downplayed the suggestion by some that the 24/7 news media cycle is responsible for breaking the unwritten rule about not campaigning during an opponent’s convention.

“I prefer to think of the new habit of campaigning during opponents’ conventions as just another example of disrespect for the forms of behavior that define civilized conduct,” Mr. Hess said.

Although presidents typically don’t campaign during the opposing party’s convention, challengers often try to make news during their rival’s moment in the sun.

In 2008, both Mr. Obama and Republican John McCain campaigned during each other’s nominating parties. In 2004, Mr. Kerry and running mate John Edwards campaigned during the GOP convention. In 1988, both George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis campaigned during the other’s convention.

As Mr. Obama tries to re-energize young voters next week on three college campuses, a poll shows what the president is facing. The survey by the nonprofit group Generation Opportunity found that 89 percent of voters younger than 30 say the economy is affecting their daily lives negatively.

The poll also found that 64 percent of young voters think the availability of more quality, full-time jobs upon graduation is more important than lower student-loan interest rates, an issue on which Mr. Obama waged a high-profile battle with Congress this summer.

“If you don’t have a job, you can’t pay [back] a loan,” said Paul Conway, executive director of the group.

The survey also indicates that young voters are motivated to vote this year, with 76 percent saying they intend to go to the polls in November. But it might not be good news for Mr. Obama, who is seeking to recapture the youth vote that helped him win four years ago.

“People want solutions and they plan to hold people accountable, and make a change,” Mr. Conway said.

The poll did not ask voters for their preference in the presidential election.

The unemployment rate for 18- to 29-year-olds overall in July was 12.7 percent; it was 22.3 percent for blacks in the same age range. Mr. Conway said if the 1.7 million young adults who have given up looking for jobs are included, the actual unemployment rate for voters younger than 30 is 16.7 percent.

• Researcher John Sopko contributed to this report.

About the Author

Dave Boyer

Dave Boyer is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times. A native of Allentown, Pa., Boyer worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 2002 to 2011 and also has covered Congress for the Times. He is a graduate of Penn State University. Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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