Big News: Obama's Seen Lots of States

Twelve-hundred words in the Times on Obama's expanding horizons: "The presidential campaign has not only given the country a chance to meet Mr. Obama. It has also given Mr. Obama a chance to meet the country, taking him to large swaths of the United States that he has never seen before."

Reporter Jeff Zeleny saw fit to devote almost 1,200 words in Thursday's Times to the shocking fact that as a presidential candidate, Barack has been to...are you sitting down? Lots of states. (Though maybe not 57.)

Zeleny's "As America Learns About Obama, He Returns the Favor" began:

Senator Barack Obama marveled at the view here in Big Sky Country. He discovered that the gumbo in New Orleans was far tastier than in Chicago. And he was pleasantly surprised that he loved Austin, Tex., and its music - but who doesn't?

The presidential campaign has not only given the country a chance to meet Mr. Obama. It has also given Mr. Obama a chance to meet the country, taking him to large swaths of the United States that he has never seen before.

Since his political rise began less than four years ago, he has visited New Orleans, toured parts of the Great Plains and traveled across the South - all for the first time. He made a nighttime stop to Mount Rushmore, paid his respects at the grave of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and dropped by the home of President Harry S. Truman.

Zeleny missed yet another chance to bring up Obama's "North by Northwest" gaffe at Mt. Rushmore. He continued:

Not since he was 11, when he traveled through a handful of states with his mother, grandmother and sister - by Greyhound bus, train and an occasional rental car - has Mr. Obama seen this much of America.

Having grown up in Hawaii and Indonesia and spending much of his adult life in large cities, Mr. Obama, 46, is now acquainting himself more deeply with his country and finds himself unusually surprised by some of his findings.

Zeleny puffed up Obama's unprivileged past:

Mr. Obama's first trips to Iowa and New Hampshire came on the cusp of his own debut as a presidential contender. The senator is a relative rarity, a candidate who is not from a famous family and whose background limited his opportunities to travel while in college and after.

His salary as a community organizer in Chicago - about $12,000 annually - allowed him to travel only once or twice a year. Now, it is more likely to be once or twice a day, and he often christens his arrival in a new destination with a personal greeting as he soaks in his surroundings.

"It is fun to be in Fargo," he said one recent afternoon as he stood in the warm sunshine at an outdoor park on a swing through North Dakota. "But it doesn't look like it does in the movie."

Another favorite discovery, he said, was the wide-open beauty of Oregon. This spring, as his campaign bus traveled from Portland to Corvallis, he also picked up a bit of trivia.

"Oregon actually is the size of Great Britain, except it has 3 million people and Great Britain has 80 million," Mr. Obama offered up in the interview. "You pick up facts like that, and you realize again how lucky we are."

The Times evidently finds Obama's insights fascinating.

Zeleny also tossed out some pretty dull gaffes made on the trail by Obama (the Times has yet to report on his more interesting ones).

Still, local newspapers have picked up on a handful of his on-location gaffes, which then are telegraphed to a wider audience by the Republican National Committee.

In May, when Mr. Obama arrived for a rally in South Dakota's largest city, he declared: "Thank you, Sioux City!" That city, of course, is in Iowa. He was standing in Sioux Falls.

A week later, he greeted the crowd in a large arena in South Florida with, "How's it going, Sunshine?" A few minutes later, he added, "It's good to be in Sunshine!" Actually, he was in Sunrise, Fla.

BTW, has John McCain withdrawn from the race? Thursday's paper is overloaded with Obama, with one full print page consisting of three pro-Obama stories and the facing page featuring yet another full-length Obama story, as well as a brief item onthe Democrat.Coverage of the McCain campaign consisted of a 200-word brief of mockery by Michael Cooper devoted to McCain getting flummoxed in Ohio over a question in about insurance companies paying for Viagra but not birth control.