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Good Question: How Often Do Presidents Travel?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO)— Whenever a United States president leaves the White House and heads for the “real” America, the opposition party complains about taxpayers bankrolling a political trip. But compared to previous presidents, how often is President Barack Obama on the road?

CBS Radio News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller obsessively tracks Presidential travel, and he shared his data with us.

Counting his recent trip to Cannon Falls, Minn., Obama has taken 143 trips out of the Washington, D.C., area since the start of his presidency (including vacation, but not counting trips to Camp David). Contrast that to former President George W. Bush at this identical point in his presidency: Bush had taken 228 trips (that count does include Bush’s trips to his Texas ranch).

“Domestic travel is very calculated,” said Kathryn Pearson, a University of Minnesota political science professor.

According to Pearson, domestic travel is for two reasons: political and representational.

“There is an electoral purpose. From the moment elected, he or she is constantly thinking about reelection,” she said.

But there’s also a real reason the President needs to get out of the White House.

“The president actually wants to go out and hear from the American people,” she said.

That’s been happening as long as the presidency has been around, but “within the last two decades it’s really picked up,” said Pearson.

Knoller’s numbers were used in a report analyzing first-term travel by U.S. Presidents.

Ronald Reagan took 175 domestic trips in his entire first term. George H.W. Bush took 276. Bill Clinton traveled 315 times in the U.S. his first term, and George W. Bush traveled 391 times.

“Today people have so many news options and so many entertainment options, the president has to make a better effort to go across the country to reach people instead of simply being in the White House,” said Pearson.

And of the Presidents who were elected to two terms, the domestic travel isn’t even close. Domestic travel typically goes in the tank in the second term.

“Not surprising. They’re not thinking about reelection,” she said.

Reagan took 25 percent fewer trips in his second term. George W. Bush traveled 45 percent less.

Travel abroad generally goes up in the second term, but don’t be totally cynical about presidential travel.

“I think there’s value in getting out of Washington, out of the beltway, and actually talking with Americans,” said Pearson.

More from Jason DeRusha
Comments

One Comment

  1. Mpd says:

    With Social Media and technology the President can find other ways to meet with the American people. Each trips costs taxpayers a significant amount of money….money that can be used for fund schools, help the homeless find food and shelter, and fix our infrastructure. I hope the President thinks about that the next time he wants to travel.

    1. T says:

      “….money that can be used for fund schools, help the homeless find food and shelter, and fix our infrastructure.”

      Really? He is the President of the US. He should stay home so Rufus can get another meal ticket. Your comment stinks of nanny state leberalism.

      1. Jim says:

        Fixing our infrastructure is “nanny state leberalism?” Wow, it amazes me how out of touch with reality many Republicans are. Your comment stinks of ignorance.

        1. T says:

          Just doing a little trolling to rile you all up. I do agree that we have crumbling infrastructure but I also agree that we have become nanny-fied.

    2. By the way one of the 2 buses will be used by the GOP candidate. says:

      By the way one of the 2 buses will be used by the GOP candidate. Did you bother to read or listen to the story?

      “Counting his recent trip to Cannon Falls, Minn., Obama has taken 143 trips out of the Washington, D.C., area since the start of his presidency (including vacation, but not counting trips to Camp David). Contrast that to former President George W. Bush at this identical point in his presidency: Bush had taken 228 trips (that count does include Bush’s trips to his Texas ranch).” Jason DeRusha.

  2. Joe Schmoe says:

    How long did it take you to type that witty little barb? That first joke was so good you decided to extend it. The audience just doubled over.

    1. Kessler says:

      Betting that you are a BHO supporter, do you feel embarassed knowing you are actually supporting somone who is bent on bankrupting the country?

      1. Just a regular guy. says:

        It is the GOP bent on bankruptcy. They will do ANYTHING to be in control. They care NOTHING about average Americans.

      2. Jim says:

        This country made Barack Obama filthy rich and the most powerful man in the world, so of course Republican logic says that he must hate the country and want to bankrupt it. That makes a lot of sense if you don’t think about it.

  3. mary says:

    Who’s the real idiot…you, for even typing such a statement.

  4. anonymous says:

    Just a thought. For all the presidents. If it is to campaign maybe cost should come out of their own pockets or campaign funds rather than taxpayers.

    1. Richard in Minneapolis says:

      They do. Campaigning costs are paid for by the election committees. Taxpayer funds are only allowed to be used for legitimate presidential activities.

      The problem arise when trips are ‘dual purpose’, .e.g. meeting with constituents, meetings with industry groups to hear their concerns, etc. which are all ‘business’, and then attending a campaign fund-raiser in the evening.

  5. Brian says:

    Well, I see some real ignorant hate for Obama, just like I saw during GWB’s presidency.
    Based on the above researched article, it seems the GWB did set a standard regarding his travels abd Obama isn’t far behind. I think that any president who travels alot and is basically campaigning on tax payer dollars during troubling times is wrong. GWB did it as historical facts show and now Obama is doing it. Both are wrong, wrong, wrong!

  6. Pavel says:

    Where were all you people with nasty comments when George W. Bush was in office. I did not see any of the “picky” comments then.

  7. WJ says:

    The bigger question is were the trips for business or personal reasons? I bet the number would look a bit different, if they based the statistics on business travel.

  8. J says:

    Interesting to have seen how much George W. Bush traveled, I guess i didn’t know he traveled as much, I figured Obama had traveled more, probably because every trip he takes is broadcasted by all of the media, left and right, so it seems like more, I don’t remember the media talking too much about Bush’s travels, but maybe they did, and I ignored the national media like most people do

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