OSKALOOSA, IA - AUGUST 14: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to guests during a campaign stop at the Nelson Pioneer Farm and Museum August 14, 2012 in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's travel schedule has left eight states looking like school kids who sit alone at lunch and don't get invited to parties.
Residents of Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah have little chance of participating in the president's re-election campaign festivities. Obama has not visited these states as president, although he campaigned in some of them four years ago.
"I doubt seriously that any president of any party means to be rude to any people because of not visiting," said Geoff Skelly, communications director for the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "If you have finite resources and you are trying to get elected and trying to win the public relations battle, you are going to go to a place you are going to get the most bang for your buck."
Obama's excluded eight were "predictable," Skelly said. The president is spending his time in states known to vote Democratic, large fundraiser states and swing states.
For those living in Omaha, Neb. -- a liberal city in a state that went Republican for the last 11 elections -- the president's absence doesn't worry them much. They can always travel across the Missouri River to Iowa, a state heavily frequented by the Democratic president. Obama made an appearance at the Iowa State Fair this week and has participated in 24 events in Nebraska's neighbor state since he's been president.
Nebraska Democrats Data Director Kelsey Liddy was quick to point out that Obama visited Omaha in 2008 before becoming president.
"Omaha was nicknamed Obamaha for years following because it was the district that split the vote for Nebraska, giving one electoral vote to Obama," Liddy said. "He's a busy man, and we're quite rational in our understanding that a notoriously red state is not at the top of his list."
Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that split their electoral votes by congressional district.
The mindset that going to every state is beneficial to a president's campaign can be dismissed by taking a trip down history lane. Richard Nixon lost the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy even though he completed his promise to campaign in all 50 states.
"While it is technically a good idea to visit every state, since visiting a state does increase your chances of winning that state, it is not a good idea if, despite visiting the state many times you would still lose," said Jonathan Day, an assistant professor of political science at Western Illinois University who researches campaign strategy.
Leaders of Democratic parties in this year's "excluded eight" understand that visiting all 50 states could be burdensome.
"It is unlikely that President Obama will be able to capture Idaho's four electoral votes," Idaho Democratic Party Chair Larry Grant said. "We do understand and appreciate that he has more important places to be from a campaign standpoint."
It's no surprise that the president has yet to venture to the Gem state. Regardless of its border with Washington, Oregon and Nevada -- states that went for Obama in 2008 -- Idaho hangs out in a clique of 21 other states that sent their electoral votes to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
If the United States were high school and Obama's travel plans signal who the cool kids are, New York and California would be the star quarterback and head cheerleader. He took part in 69 events in New York and 56 in California -- many of them fundraisers -- since his inauguration, according to data compiled by Fairvote.org.
Other states that have won the president's attention are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia -- all swing states known to have had their electoral votes go to both Republicans and Democrats.
Of those, Skelly said, the one Obama should be buddying up with is Virginia.
"If you're mapping out the path to 270 electoral votes -- for both Obama and Romney -- winning Virginia is very pivotal," Skelly said, admitting he's biased as a Virginian. "If Obama holds Virginia, it's really hard to see Romney winning."
Day, though, said he still wonders how much campaigns really matter at all.
"I am holding out hope one day that one candidate would stop campaigning completely so we could finally see how much effect a campaign does have on the election," Day said. "We got really close with McCain suspending his campaign in 2008, but too bad it only lasted a short time. Oh well, maybe in this election someone will stop campaigning."
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