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Sweet Column: Obama in New Orleans today on post Katrina ``inspection'' tour.

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Sen. Barack Obama heads to Iowa in September to raise money for Democrats, knowing that even the news he will be setting foot in the state triggers yet another round of speculation about his White House ambitions.

Obama has been crisscrossing the nation on political travel and has made two international trips as a freshman. Today, he heads to New Orleans for a post-Katrina tour and briefings.

But nothing resonates politically like a trip to Iowa, the state with the first presidential caucus, already the host to a constant string of 2008 hopefuls. Except New Hampshire, whose presidential primary comes shortly after Iowa. Obama has no stops in New Hampshire on his calendar.

Obama will keynote an annual fish (corrected: steak) fry sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), a high-profile venue most Democrats putting together Iowa presidential campaigns would love to have. He'll also stop on the Iowa side of the Quad Cities that straddle the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois to keynote fund-raisers for Democratic Iowa governor candidate Chet Culver and Bruce Braley, a Democrat running for House seat.

That's picking up lots more Iowa chits since Obama is one of the leading Democratic donor draws and attracts political money like a magnet.

Harkin invited Obama a few weeks ago while they were on the Senate floor.

To go or not to go to Iowa. Turns out it was not much of a question.

The Obama camp, which once played down talk of a White House run, now just lets it flow. Let other people speculate about Obama's future if they want. For his operation, there is just not a down side. Not yet.

Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs had a remarkable transmutation when I asked how they grappled with an Iowa decision, what with it touching off more White House chatter.

I thought the Alabama native was channeling Johnny Cash when he started ticking off in that drawl of his all of the states Obama will have visited by November -- about 30 in all. (Obama's Hopefund political war chest has written checks for candidates in at least 30 states.)

You know the Cash song "I've Been Everywhere"? That's what I heard as Gibbs told me, "He's been to Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri." I got the drift.

With "tremendously important'' elections in Iowa in November, Gibbs said it was "kinda silly'' not to go.

Said Gibbs, "From the very first moment [Obama] started traveling nationally, people said this was about running for president.''

***

Obama flies to New Orleans early this morning to visit the hurricane-ravaged city. In January, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin dropped by Obama's Senate office looking for hurricane relief money

They will see each other today, at a FEMA briefing in the mayor's office that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) will also attend.

Then Obama is off for no more than 90 minutes of work at a building-raising by Habitat for Humanity -- at the Musicians Village conceived by musicians Harry Connick Jr. and Branford and Ellis Marsalis in the city's impoverished 9th Ward. He'll meet with small-business owners and end the day at a church.

Obama has been working on legislation to crack down on Katrina contracting fraud.

======================================
from Obama's office

Obama public schedule for Friday, July 21

11:45 AM CDT FEMA briefing

Mayor’s Office
1300 Perdido Street, Suite 2-E04

New Orleans, LA

***Senator Landrieu will be in attendance***

***Meeting is closed to the press***

1:00 PM CDT Habitat for Humanity – community building event

Musicians Village

New Orleans, LA

2:30 PM CDT Roundtable discussion with small business owners

900 Camp Street

New Orleans, LA

***Senator Landrieu will be in attendance***

3:45 PM CDT Tour of the 9th Ward

New Orleans, LA

6:15 PM CDT Faith event

St. Peter Claver Church

1923 St. Philip Street

New Orleans, LA

###


5 Comments

It is Sen. Harkin's Annual Steak Fry, not "fish fry."

Lynn Sweet reply..
thanks will fix

We Democrats have bigger fish to fry anyway!
GORE-OBAMA 2006!

Can Hillary turn any red state blue? NOT!
Al Gore has a real chance to carry Ohio and Florida...after the Bush 2nd term train wreck.

Obama has done nothing important here, so hegoes to New Orleans to walk around, nice. This guy is a do nothing blow hard.

I wonder how many politicians are going to arrange to get [purchase] an "Obama Hug" over the next couple of years.
=============

Lynn Sweet reply
Please define: ``Obama Hug''
thanks

I just noticed that you commented on my comment.

The "Obama Hug" is just that, a hug, the one that was featured in several of the campaign ads that ran during this year's primary races in Illinois.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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